‘Return to right path’: Beijing’s new envoy tells Hong Kong

Luo Huining, who was appointed at the weekend, gave little indication of whether China would change approach to city.

Hong Kong Luo
The newly-appointed head of the Hong Kong Liaison Office Luo Huining said he hoped Hong Kong would return to the 'right path' when he spoke to the media to mark his first day in office [Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters]

The new head of China‘s liaison office in Hong Kong, the most senior mainland official based in the territory, said on Monday he hoped the city would return to “the right path” as anti-government protests continue.

Luo Huining, 65, replaced Wang Zhimin, who had held the post since 2017, on Saturday in the most significant political change since the protests began last June. 

The liaison office, which reports to China’s State Council, or cabinet, is a platform for Beijing to project its influence in the city and has faced criticism there and in mainland China for misjudging the situation in the Chinese-controlled territory.

Luo delivered a short statement to reporters in Mandarin rather than the Cantonese that is more widely spoken in the city.

He gave little indication as to whether Beijing’s approach towards Hong Kong would change.

“In the past six months, Hong Kong’s situation has made everybody’s heart wrench,” Luo said, declining to take questions from reporters. “Everyone earnestly hopes that Hong Kong can return to the right path.”

Conciliatory tone

Millions have taken to the streets in a wave of protests sparked by opposition to a now-abandoned proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China, that have since evolved into broader demands for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

While the huge protest marches have been largely peaceful, smaller groups of hardline protesters have repeatedly battled riot police and more than 6,500 people have been arrested.

Luo struck a conciliatory tone, saying Hong Kong had made an “important contribution to (China’s) opening up and modernisation”.

And in a brief reference to the political violence he quoted President Xi Jinping‘s New Year speech saying “without a harmonious and stable environment, how can there be a home where people can live and work happily”.

The Liaison Office was targeted in July by protesters throwing eggs and daubing the building with graffiti.

Luo previously served as governor of Qinghai province and was also appointed to senior Communist Party positions in Qinghai and Shanxi provinces, according to state-run newspaper China Daily.

Source: News Agencies