Beijing appoints national security hardliner to head Hong Kong office

The PRC State Council has appointed Zheng Yanxiong, 59, to lead the central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong (i.e. as its top representative in Hong Kong), replacing Luo Huining. Zheng rose through the local government ranks in Guangdong province, and served as secretary general of the provincial Communist Party committee. He is best known as a hardliner who stamped out anti-corruption protests that erupted in Wukan, a Guangdong village, in 2011 after an activist died in police custody. Zheng accused the Wukan protestors of “colluding with foreign media to create trouble”. Before his latest appointment, Zheng had been the head of Beijing’s national security office in Hong Kong.

The Liaison Office was established in 2000 to replace the Xinhua News Agency (Beijing’s de facto representative office in Hong Kong before 1997). Its function was originally to act as a communication bridge between Beijing and Hong Kong, but it has become more and more influential in Hong Kong’s politics and daily operation and affairs.

Article 22 of the Basic Law stipulates that “no department of the Central People’s Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law”.

However, the intervention of the Liaison Office of Hong Kong matters has become more overt in recent years. In 2022, it was reported that the Liaison Office had informed the Chief Executive election committee members in Hong Kong that John Lee Ka-chiu would be the only candidate backed by Beijing. Lee subsequently won without any competition.

The appointment of a hardliner to head the Liaison Office evidences that the PRC government has little intention to abide by the “one country, two system” principle or fulfil its promise to allow “Hong Kong people to govern Hong Kong”. Unfortunately, we expect a tighter grip on Hong Kong matters and continued violations of the Joint Declaration by the PRC government in the coming years. 

(This article originally appeared as an item in the Jan-Feb 2023 edition of our newsletter.)

%d bloggers like this: