China has replaced the head of its Hong Kong Liaison Office, the most senior mainland political official based in the Chinese-controlled territory, following more than six months of often-violent anti-government protests in the city.
Wang Zhimin, who had held the post since 2017, had been replaced by 65-year-old Luo Huining, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said on its website late on Saturday. Until November, Luo was the top official of China’s ruling Communist Party in the northern province of Shanxi.
Saturday’s statement gave no other details on the change.
Luo, a loyalist of President Xi Jinping, has not previously held any Hong Kong-related position and is at the age when top Chinese officials typically retire. In Shanxi, he had been tasked with cleaning up a graft-ridden, coal-rich region where corruption was once likened to cancer.
The Liaison Office, which reports to China’s State Council, serves as the platform for Beijing to project its influence in the city, and has come in for criticism in Hong Kong and mainland China for misjudging the situation in the city.
Wang is the shortest serving Liaison office director since 1997.
Johnny Lau, a political scientist and commentator, said Wang’s exit was unlikely to placate Hong Kong protesters who have demanded that the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, step down.
Writing in the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily in 2017, Luo said Shanxi province had been ardently following instructions from Xi to clean up the mess there.
Mass protests erupted in June in Hong Kong over an extradition bill that would have allowed individuals to be sent for trial to the mainland, where justice is controlled by the Communist Party.
Though the bill was withdrawn, protests have continued over a broad perception that Beijing is meddling improperly in city affairs and complaints of police brutality.