China on Thursday appointed a senior official known for a hardline crackdown on Christians to head its main policy-making body for Hong Kong, following months of pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous city.
The reshuffle comes after months of political unrest — the starkest challenge to Beijing since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Senior Beijing official Xia Baolong, currently secretary-general at the national committee of China’s top political advisory body, was promoted to director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council.
His predecessor Zhang Xiaoming was demoted to deputy in charge of daily operations.
Xia, 67, was Communist Party secretary of eastern Zhejiang province for five years from 2012.
During his stint there, local officials were accused of demolishing churches and removing crosses from their exteriors, in a campaign that rights groups said impacted hundreds of parishes.
In the time Xia was in charge, the large Sanjiang Church in the province was also demolished, following government claims it was an illegal structure. China’s officially atheist Communist authorities are wary of any organised movements outside their control, including religious ones, and analysts say controls over such groups have tightened under President Xi Jinping. China has demoted the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office following months of pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous city Xia also served as Xi’s deputy between 2003 and 2007 while the now-president was Zhejiang party secretary."I think Xi Jinping wanted to find someone he could trust," said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, […]
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