The restructuring removes Zhang Xiaoming as director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), to be replaced by Xia Baolong, a vice chairman of top advisory body the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's human resources ministry said on Thursday.
Analysts say Xia's appointment is a signal that China wants to tighten its control over Hong Kong and further curb its civil society. Zhang will become a vice director in charge of "routine work".
The choice of Luo, a member of a CCP cadre known for executing Xi's anti-corruption campaign, was seen as a signal of Beijing's intention to restore order in Hong Kong after months of violent unrest opposing China's grip on the territory. Xia is a former close aide to President Xi Jinping who served as Communist Party chief of Zhejiang province during a crackdown on Christian churches several years ago.
The CCP late a year ago issued a communique signaling greater intervention in everything from education in Hong Kong to how the territory picks its leader.
"SpiceJet has made a decision to temporarily suspend its daily Delhi-Hong Kong passenger flight from February 16 to 29, 2020", said an airline spokesman. The Hong Kong government later junked the bill but refused to give in to other protest demands.
"Xi now has his proteges in place over Hong Kong for the first time", said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.
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Xia's push in 2014 and 2015 to tear down crosses on the roofs of churches in the eastern province of Zhejiang was widely criticized by the global community.
The personnel changes are aimed at boosting coordination between Beijing and Hong Kong, Cabestan said, as well as giving more support to the pro-establishment camp in Hong Kong's Legislative Council.
"Xia is not a moderate and he has shown himself to be a zealous servant of Xi Jinping". SpiceJet crew was reportedly very unhappy with the airline's decision to continue flying to Hong Kong.
The reshuffle could pave the way for Beijing to possibly introduce a national education curriculum and a controversial national security law that prompted mass demonstrations in 2003, said Gu Su, a retired law professor at Nanjing University in China.
It also called for Hong Kong to flawless its legal system to "safeguard national security", "strengthen law enforcement power", and increase "patriotic education" of young people and civil servants.
Luo Huining, head of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, and Fu Ziying, who heads the Macau liaison office, will also be given the role of deputy director while still keeping their existing roles.