Tag Archives: Luo Huining

Hong Kong Activist Arrests Send An Intended Chill Message

Hong Kong publisher Jimmy Lai being arrested by Hong Kong police on April 18, 2020. Photo credit: Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai

BEIJING HAS LONG shown its impatience for Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy under the former British colony’s 1997 ‘one country, two systems’ post-colonial settlement. In recent years, it has attempted to compress the 50-year transition before it formally assumes full sovereignty over the city, moves opposed in the streets by Hong Kong residents who fear the loss of guaranteed freedoms and civic rights.

The co-ordinated arrests this weekend of at least 14 prominent ‘pro-Democracy’ activists, including Martin Lee, the lawyer and former legislator known as the founding father of Hong Kong’s democratic movement, and the anti-establishment media tycoon Jimmy Lai, are just the latest signal that Beijing’s impatience has worn thin.

The group have been detained in connection with the mass protests that roiled the city last year and are likely to face charges of organising and taking part in unlawful assemblies in August and October. They join more than 7,000 arrested for their involvement in the protests since last June. Many are charged with rioting which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.

More chilling is the unprecedented statement from Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong that preceded the round-up. It said it was not bound by Hong Kong’s laws and therefore has the right to ‘supervise’ the implementation of ‘one country, two systems.

The message is blunt: one Party rules over all.

Luo Huining, Beijing’s relatively recently installed top representative in Hong Kong, has called for revisions to the legal system in the name of national security, and stricter enforcement of social order.

These latest arrests, unprecedented in their scale and prominence, mark the start of a renewed attempt to assert Beijing’s authority that could bring Hong Kong’s residents back into the streets, from which only the coronavirus pandemic had removed them.

They are likely to be treated with a heavy hand, at a time when the rest of the world’s attention is focused elsewhere.

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The Squeeze Tightens On Hong Kong

THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK has stopped the Hong Kong mass protests in their tracks, but Beijing is not letting the opportunity pass to tighten its control over the troublesome city.

Xia Baolong, a consigliere for President Xi Jinping from their Zhejiang days when Xi was Party boss there and Xia his deputy, has been appointed to run the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, the cabinet-level agency that oversees the two former colonies.

Xia’s seniority, his status as a Xi loyalist and the fact that the heads of the local liaison offices in both places will now report directly to him, as in a surprise demotion will the previous director, Zhang Xiaoming, signals Xi’s intent to exert more direct control over Hong Kong in particular.

That had been flagged to some extent in January by the replacement as head of the Hong Kong liaison office of the hapless Wang Zhimin by Luo Huining

As party chief in Shanxi, Luo oversaw an anti-corruption purge. His new boss, Xia, also has a hard-line reputation, derived in part from a crackdown on underground Christian churches during his time in Zhejiang.

That will not be an encouraging precedent for Hong Kong’s civil society. Nor will the fact that Beijing’s two top officials concerned with Hong Kong’s affairs have no roots in the city, making it more likely that their first thought will be to put China’s interests ahead of those of Hong Kong.

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Beijing Fires Its Top Hong Kong Official

BEIJING HAS REPLACED its top official in Hong Kong, a sign of its growing impatience with the handling of the six months of protest that have roiled the city.

Wang Zhimin, who has been the director of Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong since 2017, has been replaced by Luo Huining, formerly party boss in the northern province of Shanxi.

The change was announced in a terse, two-sentence statement but came amid growing speculation that Wang’s days were numbered, speculation that has only intensified following the defeat of pro-government and pro-Beijing candidates in November’s district council elections.

The 65 years old Luo has no known connections with Hong Kong, suggesting the top leadership in Beijing plans to clean out the Liaison Office of officials who have a historic closeness to the Hong Kong bureaucracy that it believes impaired their effectiveness in dealing with the protests.

Luo’s party seniority and age support this view.  He has been a full member of the Party’s Central Committee for eight years and has a reputation for having being a reliable executor in Shanxi of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign. He had previously risen through the ranks in Qinghai in western China.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, remains in place, at least for now, having been publicly praised last month by Xi for her courage in ‘most difficult’ times.

These look set to continue, with tens of thousands of protesters welcoming in the new year with largely peaceful pro-democracy marches (not the ‘rampage‘ reported by state media). At the same time, in a New Year’s speech, Xi reinforced Beijing’s wish for a ‘stable and prosperous’ Hong Kong. Bridging the two will be Luo’s not inconsiderable task.

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