The new head of China’s liaison office in Hong Kong, who was unexpectedly announced at the weekend, said on Monday he hoped the Asian financial hub, roiled by more than six months of anti-government protests, would return to “the right path.”
Luo Huining’s appointment is seen as a sign of Beijing’s frustration with how his predecessor, Wang Zhimin, handled the crisis and makes Wang the shortest serving liaison office director since the city’s 1997 return to Chinese rule.
The liaison office, which reports to China’s State Council or cabinet, is a platform for Beijing to project its influence in the city.
In November, Reuters reported exclusively that Beijing was considering replacements for Wang, who had come under criticism for failing to foresee the public reaction to a now-withdrawn extradition bill or adequately report upwards on the sentiment on the ground.
Unlike Wang, who worked at China’s state news agency and within the liaison office before taking its helm, Luo has no prior experience in Hong Kong, a point he was keen to address in his first remarks to the media after taking office.
“I worked in the mainland in the past, but I am not unfamiliar with Hong Kong,” Luo, now the most senior mainland official based in the territory, told reporters in a brief statement, without taking any questions.
“Hong Kong is the pearl of the orient, an international metropolis. Hong Kong compatriots have made important contributions to the reform and opening up and modernization of our country. The motherland will always be Hong Kong’s strongest backer.”