China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office and its Taiwan Affairs Office will be merged, according to Lau Siu-kai, a top adviser to Beijing.
Local media Ming Pao and Now TV both cited unnamed sources in reporting on Friday that a new “Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council” will be formed. Separately, Lau told Taiwan’s official Central News Agency that there was indeed a plan to merge, according to his understanding.
Lau, vice-chairman of the semi-official think tank the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said he was uncertain what form the merger would take. He said he did not know whether the Taiwan Work Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party would also be merged into the new entity.
The news came as the annual session of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference will open in Beijing on Saturday.
Asked if the move was intended to diminish the Taiwan Affairs Office, Lau told the news agency that Beijing sees Taiwan and Hong Kong as issues at the same level of regional affairs, and they were both small departments. “There is no issue of diminishing them,” he said.
He also said he believed the target of the merger was to improve governance and enhance the Communist Party’s leadership.
During the 19th Chinese Communist Party National Congress in October last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the “One Country, Two Systems” principle had proven to be the best solution to handle Hong Kong and Macau’s historical issues, and that China “resolutely opposed and deterred separatist elements advocating Taiwan independence.”
Henry Tang, a Hong Kong member of the CPPCC, said in Beijing that he believed that the merger would not affect Hong Kong much since the city had already returned to China.
He said it did not mean Beijing would use the same means to handle the issues of Hong Kong independence and Taiwan independence.
He added that it might be a good thing for the new office to look into the experience of Hong Kong and Macau’s returns to China, in order to seek a faster, peaceful unification with Taiwan.
Zhang Xiaoming, the director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, only took the position in September last year, succeeding the retired Wang Guangya. It is uncertain what his new position will be.
Zhang Zhijun has been the head of the Taiwan Affairs Office since 2013. But, as he is 64, it was rumoured that Zhang would leave the position soon and be replaced by his deputy Liu Jieyi.
Liu was China’s permanent representative to the United Nations before he joined the Taiwan Affairs Office as one of its deputy chiefs in October last year.