Who is Xia Baolong, Beijing’s top man on Hong Kong affairs, and what is his fact-finding visit about?

He served as secretary general and vice-chairman of the country’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, at the time.

Top Beijing official on Hong Kong affairs sets high expectations as visit starts

His appointment came about a month after Beijing replaced Wang Zhimin with former provincial party chief Luo Huining as its top envoy in Hong Kong in the first major leadership shuffle since the 2019 unrest. Wang was blamed in some quarters for the turmoil that escalated under his watch.

Last year, Beijing restructured and elevated the HKMAO to directly answer to the Communist Party’s central leadership instead of the State Council, with Xia remaining as its head.

2. Where was he posted before being the key man of Hong Kong issues?

Xia, formerly Zhejiang Communist Party chief, was considered a hardliner and a close aide to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xi’s ties with Xia – who rose from semi-retirement to take up a leadership role at the country’s top political advisory body in 2018, making him a state leader – dates back about two decades when the pair worked together in Zhejiang.

Analysts said Xia had Xi’s full trust, despite having little experience dealing with Hong Kong and approaching retirement age for senior leaders.

They added that Xia also appeared to have shared a similar hardline approach with Xi on maintaining stability in the face of handling civil society and dissidents.

Xia Baolong’s vehicle passes through the Connaught Road Central Flyover in Sheung Wan. Photo: May Tse

3. What is his present visit about?

Xia landed at Hong Kong International Airport on Thursday and his trip kicked off with a visit to the Integrated Airport Centre, which was launched last year to support the city’s three-runway system.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu and his cabinet were expected to brief the top official on the city’s latest development, while Xia would also meet members of the government’s key decision-making body Executive Council.

One of the trip’s highlights would be a closed-door exchange between Xia and Hong Kong’s tycoons, who would speak about the local business environment and prospects.

Top Beijing official expected to meet tycoons, professional bodies in Hong Kong

Xia was also expected to meet young people and residents, as well as pay a visit to the newly established International Organization for Mediation Preparatory Office to support Hong Kong’s status as a legal and dispute resolution services centre.

Xia’s trip will conclude next Wednesday, the day Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po gives his annual budget speech. It is also the day before the close of a public consultation period for local national security legislation.

4. How is the visit different from his last trip in April?

Xia’s visit this time will centre on gauging views on economic development and district governance, according to the Hong Kong government.

Hong Kong is expected to face a ballooning deficit of HK$100 billion (US$12.8 billion). Last year, the city also returned the first batch of district councillors under the “patriots-only” electoral shake-up amid a record low turnout rate.

Sources also said a key item on Xia’s agenda was the proposed domestic national security law, mandated under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, with the 30-day consultation ending on Wednesday.

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Last April, Xia also met officials, lawmakers, representatives of different quarters including the business sector.

One of the key events attended by Xia was the opening ceremony of the city’s national security education day, in which he delivered a keynote speech urging residents to focus more on economic development.

He also called on Hongkongers to stay vigilant against anti-China forces that were still seeking a comeback, while asking them to choose other ways to express their views instead of mounting protests.

5. What are analysts and politicians’ views on the fact-finding visits?

Lau Siu-kai, a consultant for semi-official Beijing think tank the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said visits by HKMAO officials were likely to become regular as many domestic problems could only be solved by the efforts of the city and central governments.

He said he expected the top official to outline Beijing’s position on city national security legislation, rebut criticism and give suggestions on the maintenance of Hong Kong’s stability and promotion of the economy.

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John Burns, honorary professor at the department of politics and public administration at the University of Hong Kong, shared the same view.

He added that high-level visits would attempt to impress on the city public the urgency of central government concerns.

Executive councillor and commercial sector lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung said he hoped there would be favourable policies to help Hong Kong businesses mitigate the effects of geopolitical challenges after Xia’s on-the-ground visit.


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