Zhang Xiaoming, the new top Beijing official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, says he does not care about praise or criticisms directed at him, as he correctly implemented the central government’s policies when he led China’s office in the city.
Last week, it was announced that Zhang would become director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, replacing the retiring Wang Guangya. As chief of the China Liaison Office, Zhang became known as one of a group of Chinese officials who took a hardline approach in Hong Kong.
Zhang moved to Beijing and took up his new position on Monday. He said he noticed Hong Kong society’s reaction to the personnel change. The pro-democracy camp has criticised his promotion, claiming that Zhang created a political split in the city.
“I don’t care or mind the personal praise or criticisms of me,” he said. “Nevertheless, I believe what I did was correct – it was in line with the central government’s policies towards Hong Kong and Macau.”
He said the public should not easily link personnel changes to the central government’s policies towards Hong Kong.
“The major policies of the central government towards Hong Kong have never changed – to my knowledge, they have not changed since the moment they were set,” he said.
“The central government is firm in implementing ‘One Country, Two Systems.’ You can think about it: has the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle changed? Have ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong’ and the high degree of autonomy changed? Is Hong Kong not implementing capitalism? These have not been changed.”
“The key is to gain a full understanding of the policy of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and faithfully implement it according to General Secretary Xi’s words,” he added.
Asked by reporters if he will take a hardline approach in his new role, he raised the issue of Hong Kong independence: “Hong Kong independence violates the constitution, violates the Basic Law, and violates Hong Kong’s relevant laws, it could be an offence,” he said.
“Hong Kong independence is secession, advocacy of Hong Kong independence, participation in Hong Kong independence activities – what good does it do Hong Kong? It is a disaster for Hong Kong. On this issue of right and wrong, all sectors in Hong Kong should be clear and take a zero tolerance attitude.”
Wang Zhimin, 60, was chosen to replace Zhang. Wang had worked in Hong Kong for 15 years and is fluent in Cantonese. He is the first director to have worked in the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office in Beijing.
He said outside the office in Sai Wan on Monday, his first day of work, that he wished for Hong Kong’s future to be as bright as the sunny weather.
“I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to return to my second hometown, to have the direct opportunity to serve Hong Kong compatriots,” he said in Mandarin after greeting reporters in Cantonese.
“I will also have more direct opportunities to assist and support the chief executive and the SAR government to implement its policies in accordance with the Basic Law.”
He said his goal is the same as Zhang’s: “Our principle is the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, please rest assured on this issue.”
Wang also said he hoped to have more opportunities to boost exchange between Hong Kong and the mainland, to integrate the “One Belt One Road” and the “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area” initiatives.