Hope Hong Kong can return to right path, says new chief of China's liaison office

Reuters Hong Kong, China Jan 06, 2020, 09.10 AM(IST)

Luo Huining Photograph:( AFP )

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The liaison office, which reports to China's State Councilor cabinet, is a platform for Beijing to project its influence in the city and has faced criticism for misjudging the situation in the Chinese-controlled city, which has faced more than six months of pro-democracy protests

The new head of China's liaison office in Hong Kong, the most senior mainland official based in the territory, said on Monday China was the strongest backer of the Asian financial hub, which he hoped would return to "the right path".

The liaison office, which reports to China's State Councilor cabinet, is a platform for Beijing to project its influence in the city and has faced criticism for misjudging the situation in the Chinese-controlled city, which has faced more than six months of pro-democracy protests.

In his first comments to the media since Saturday's announcement by China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security that he had replaced Wang Zhimin, 65-year-old Luo Huining said he was "not unfamiliar with the city".

"Hong Kong compatriots have made important contributions to the reform and opening up and modernisation of our country. The motherland will always be Hong Kong’s strongest backer," Luo told reporters.

"In the past half a year, the Hong Kong situation has been worrying. Everyone eagerly hopes Hong Kong can return to the right path."

In November, Reuters reported exclusively that Beijing was considering potential replacements for Wang, in a sign of dissatisfaction with the liaison office's handling of the crisis in Hong Kong.

Until November, Luo was the top official of China's ruling Communist Party in the northern province of Shanxi, where he had been tasked with cleaning up a graft-ridden, coal-rich region where corruption was once likened to cancer.

Before moving to Shanxi, Luo had been the top party official in the western province of Qinghai.

Protests in Hong Kong escalated in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent for trial to the mainland, where justice is controlled by the Communist Party.

They have since evolved into a broad pro-democracy movement, with anger growing over a perception that Beijing is meddling too much into Hong Kong, which was promised a high degree of autonomy upon returning from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

China denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.

Luo said the "one country, two systems" type of governance that guarantees Hong Kong freedoms not available on the mainland was the city's greatest advantage and that the basic law, the city's mini-constitution, will be "fully implemented."