Pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung has said that the Civic Party is disappointed by the appointment of Zhang Xiaoming as the new head of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office in Beijing.
Zhang was the head of China Liaison Office in Hong Kong. He is to replace Wang Guangya, 67, who is past retirement age.
Yeung said the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014, and the discussion over Hong Kong independence, both occurred during Zhang’s tenure.
“They were caused by [former chief executive] Leung Chun-ying and his backers. Zhang was responsible for such a split,” Yeung said.
He said the promotion was a representation of the central government’s appreciation for Zhang’s work.
“I am worried – does this mean the central government ignored the split over the past few years? Or was it indifferent to it?” he said.
Wang Zhimin, 60, the head of the China Liaison Office in Macau, will replace Zhang. Wang was formerly the Hong Kong Liaison Office’s head of youth work department between 2006 and 2009.
Democratic Party veteran lawmaker James To said he hoped Wang’s appointment would bring change, in that he could reflect Hong Kong’s true situation to Beijing.
He said Hong Kong is still dealing with the aftermath of the social split created by Leung and Zhang, but – as Wang reportedly worked with Chinese President Xi Jinping for years and was a trusted colleague – he may bring change.
To said he believed most people do not support Hong Kong independence, and Wang should reflect the true situation if anyone had misled the central government in the past.
But Starry Lee, the chair of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said she believed the central government’s policy towards Hong Kong will not see any fundamental changes.
“I believe the central government’s Hong Kong policy is a top level decision, it will not change because of a normal personnel change. You said Zhang was a hardliner, but I remember Zhang put effort into communication,” she said.
Lee said the new director, Wang Zhimin, had years of experience and is fluent in Cantonese, thus she believed it will help him to communicate with different sectors.
The retiring Wang Guangya said Zhang is more capable than him.
“If we work well on national, as well as Hong Kong and Macau matters, [then] – under the central government’s leadership – it will be meaningful to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the country’s modernisation,” he said in Beijing after the personnel change was announced on Friday. “In the past seven years, there were some troubles, but generally the work was important.”
He said he believed the people who supported him will carry on supporting Zhang.
“These seven years I feel there were rather more political controversies… it’s good to have some noise, but I believe the mainstream is clear – I am confident Hong Kong’s development will be better,” he said.
Asked about the handling of calls for Hong Kong independence, he said the Hong Kong and the central government will have to handle them, since it contravenes the Basic Law and the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.
“I believe Zhang Xiaoming’s capability is high – he is more capable than me. I believe under Zhang’s leadership, the work of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office will be even better,” he said.
He added that Hong Kong society should shift its focus to developing the economy, improving livelihoods, and defending Hong Kong’s stability and harmony.