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Published: 01:20, January 20, 2023 | Updated: 09:59, January 20, 2023
New leadership signals a bigger role for Liaison Office
By Tu Haiming
Published:01:20, January 20, 2023 Updated:09:59, January 20, 2023 By Tu Haiming

The recent appointment of Zheng Yanxiong, the former head of the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, as the new director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR sheds light on the central authority’s governing policies on Hong Kong. 

The State Council entrusted the Liaison Office with five functions. First, to communicate with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the HKSAR and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Hong Kong Garrison. Second, to contact and assist mainland agencies to manage the mainland-funded institutions in Hong Kong. Third, to facilitate exchanges and cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland in the areas of economy, education, science, culture, sports, etc, to communicate with all quarters of Hong Kong society and convey their views to the central government. Fourth, to handle Taiwan-related affairs. Fifth, to undertake other tasks to be assigned by the central government.

In addition, Article 15 of the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL) stipulates that the Committee for Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR (CSNS) shall have a national security adviser designated by the central government to provide advice on matters relating to the duties and functions of CSNS, and to sit in on meetings of the CSNS. The first national security adviser was the head of the Liaison Office.

The role of the Liaison Office has become all the more important in the wake of the anti-extradition bill campaign and the ensuing “black-clad” riots, particularly in terms of performing its fifth function — undertaking other tasks to be assigned by the central government. Evidently, as the Liaison Office is the central government’s top agency in Hong Kong, its functions should not be limited to “liaison”, especially when a governance crisis befalls the HKSAR. Instead, it should speak on behalf of the central government and offer the strongest support to the chief executive and the HKSAR government. In the event of a national security threat, the Liaison Office should assume a key role in fighting off the threat.

That the central government dispatched Luo Huining, who has solid experience in managing regional affairs as a provincial leader, to take charge of the Liaison Office when the “black-clad” riots terrorized Hong Kong; and has now appointed Zheng, who has rich experience of provincial work and overseeing national security affairs in Hong Kong, to succeed Luo, shows the importance the central government attaches to this post. 

The central government’s top office in the HKSAR must be occupied by a tough guy who has braved tough situations with not only a tenacious fighting spirit but also actual experience. Only with these qualities can he competently cope with the risks and challenges Hong Kong could face in future. Zheng is precisely the candidate who fits in these preconditions

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the central government has increasingly relied on cadres who rise through the ranks. As Hong Kong will likely encounter further challenges ahead, the head of the Liaison Office has to be a “valiant general” capable of coping with the anticipated challenges. 

Zheng’s work experience spans multiple fields such as news media, policy research, and discipline inspection. In particular, his experience as a member of a provincial Party leadership endows him with the ability to manage complex situations, which makes him an ideal candidate for the post of the Liaison Office head.

Addressing the public for the first time as the head of the Liaison Office, Zheng said Hong Kong is an important part of China’s national rejuvenation, and he vowed to do his best and live up to the expectations for this role as the city sets out on a new journey to long-term prosperity. Evidently, he understands the weight on his shoulders.

When Zheng was the director of OSNS, he publicly voiced his tough stance against the subversives and vowed to never budge in face of “mutual destruction” advocates. He demonstrated a fighting spirit that is valuable to China as it braces for geopolitical challenges ahead.  

In his report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that the country must rise to obstacles and difficulties head-on, with a fighting spirit, in pursuing the cause of national resurgence.

Although Hong Kong has largely restored peace and order, there are hidden threats. Countries hostile to China are still trying to cause trouble for the country by messing up Hong Kong. It is not hard to see the purpose of designating a highly capable cadre like Zheng to head the Liaison Office. Zheng’s appointment reveals that Beijing attaches great weight to Hong Kong, whose distinctive advantages, unique status and global competitiveness are too important to be undermined.

In expounding the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”, Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, laid down five qualities for patriots, including perseverance, being down-to-earth, being committed to duty, being competent, and having a strong sense of responsibility. To perform the duties as the director of the Liaison Office, the candidate should also possess these five qualities, and that logically explains the central government’s choice. 

The central government’s top office in the HKSAR must be occupied by a tough guy who has braved tough situations with not only a tenacious fighting spirit but also actual experience. Only with these qualities can he competently cope with the risks and challenges Hong Kong could face in future. Zheng is precisely the candidate who fits these preconditions. 

The author is a Hong Kong member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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