Top Beijing official managing Hong Kong affairs scheduled for 6-day visit to city, first since proposal for restructure of office disclosed

Xia Baolong also aims to arrange discussions with mainland officials to better their grasp of President Xi Jinping’s political ideology, sources said

Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director will attend the opening ceremony of National Security Education Day, government said

The head of Beijing’s top agency managing Hong Kong affairs will start a six-day journey to the city on Thursday as part of a fact-finding expedition to collect comments, evaluate the current situation on the ground and prepare for an organisational revamp.

The local government stated on Tuesday that Xia Baolong, head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) of the State Council, will attend official festivities to honor the city’s National Security Education Day.

Sources said Xia planned a series of talks with Hong Kong authorities, pro-establishment legislators and mainland Chinese officials stationed in the city during his visit from April 13 to 18.
“[Xia] hopes to have a firm grasp of the ground situation by meeting with people from various walks of life,” a source added.

“He will also meet extensively with relevant departments within Beijing’s outposts in Hong Kong to seek feedback on the organisational reshuffling involving many changes to reporting lines, manpower deployment and responsibilities.”

This will be Xia’s first visit to the city since Beijing announced the revamp of the HKMAO following the annual political sessions of the legislature and top political advisory body last month.
The office would answer to the Communist Party’s Central Committee instead of the State Council, in a shake-up of reporting lines considered as a de facto elevation of the body and an attempt to enhance the party’s rule in Hong Kong.

Xia last visited the city in July when he joined President Xi Jinping to mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s restoration to Chinese authority, and his trip will be twice as long as one made by his predecessor, Wang Guangya, in 2011. The director is set to attend the opening ceremony of National Security Education Day on Saturday.

City Mayor John Lee Ka-chiu offered his warmest greeting to Xia and expressed thanks for the visit, according to the government.

A second source familiar with Xia’s itinerary said he planned to hold a series of meetings with officials from Beijing’s liaison office and the local national security office as part of an extended “nationwide party campaign” to deepen their understanding of Xi’s political philosophy after the 20th party congress.

“The party is trying to ‘unify the thoughts’ of party officials with Xi’s thought amid internal and external pressures,” the source added. “The education campaign across the party is expected to be a main job for the party apparatus in the next six months or so.”
The source said the scheduled sessions were also a follow-up to an internal notice sent by the Central Committee on Monday, which called on party members to read a newly produced series of books on Xi’s speeches and instructions.

Party officials convened a training session in Beijing last week for members of its directing committee entrusted with overseeing the education campaign, the source noted.
Professor Lau Siu-kai, a consultant at the semi-official Beijing think tank the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said Xia’s uncommon six-day visit to Hong Kong highlighted that “a lot of work” needed to be done to centralize resources inside the HKMAO as part of the overhaul.

“I believe Xia will meet a wide range of people to understand Hong Kong’s post-Covid development and deep-seated problems,” he added. “This is conducive to Beijing’s formulation of long-term policies towards Hong Kong in a bid to improve governance, if the party’s leadership is strengthened.”

Chan Yung, a spokesperson for local delegates to the National People’s Congress, said Xia’s trip was essential as it would show to the world how the HKMAO will perform its tasks following the restructure, notably on “supervising” governance in Hong Kong.

“The length of the trip also reflects that Beijing attaches huge importance to Hong Kong,” he added.
According to the “Party and State Institutional Reform Plan” report released after last month’s meetings in the capital, the revamped office will “commit to the duties of investigating, researching, coordinating and supervising the implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, the comprehensive jurisdiction of the central government, and governance of Hong Kong and Macau in accordance with the law”.

The one nation, two systems concept is the basis for interactions between the two special administrative areas and Beijing.

Xia has chaired the HKMAO since February 2020, taking over the post after the months-long anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong. He was also vice-chairman of the country’s main political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, from 2018 to March.

Months after he took up his post at the agency, Beijing imposed the national security legislation on Hong Kong and changed the voting system to guarantee only “patriots” had power.
The opposition, which was once a dominant force in the legislature and on local district councils, is no longer part of the political process after many departed or faced charges emanating from the demonstrations and an unofficial primary.

The Post has heard that Xia, who at 70 is over retirement age, is anticipated to stay in his job at the HKMAO throughout the transition phase.
Separately, the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui Ching-yu will leave on an official visit to Belgium and the United Kingdom on Wednesday, confirming an earlier Post story.

The government said Hui will visit authorities and business leaders in the two nations to highlight the current advancements of Hong Kong’s financial services, notably in the field of fintech and green finance, which Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po made a priority of his budget in February.






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