Xia Baolong’s visit in numbers: from meetings to dim sum meals, the Post breaks down Beijing’s top man on Hong Kong affairs’ ‘inspection’ trip

The Post summarises Xia’s latest visit with five numbers.

26 events on itinerary

Xia spent a week in the city – from last Thursday to Wednesday – with 26 known events on his itinerary, slightly fewer than the 28 during his six-day visit last April.

This time he met officials, lawmakers, tycoons, economists, business chambers, lawyers, youth and media representatives, patriotic groups and district councillors.

He also made first-time visits to Lion Rock Park, West Kowloon Cultural District and the newly established International Organization for Mediation Preparatory Office.

Top Beijing official calls on Hong Kong to cement status as international city

All exchanges were behind closed doors and tightly choreographed. In his official capacity as HKMAO director, Xia did not deliver any public speeches or take journalists’ questions, with the public only learning about meeting contents through attendees and statements from his office.

On his first night, Xia said in a statement the tour aimed to “understand Hong Kong’s economic development, regional governance and other conditions on the ground”.

7 economy-related meetings

In a remarkable moment in Xia’s tour last April, he made a 20-minute public speech, calling on residents to stay vigilant to safeguard national security as “anti-China forces were still seeking a comeback”.

This year, the focus shifted to economic development, as meetings with government economists, business heavyweights, regulators and finance sector representatives made up almost a quarter of Xia’s itinerary.

A highlight was a four-hour exchange with prominent business leaders and tycoons, including Sun Hung Kai Properties chairman and managing director Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, Sino Group deputy chairman Daryl Ng Win-kong and Shun Tak Holdings’ Pansy Ho Chiu-king.

Xia Baolong meets members of the Bar Association and Law Society at the government’s headquarters. Photo: Handout

During Friday’s meeting, Xia praised the entrepreneurs’ “fighting spirit” in developing Hong Kong, their social responsibility and patriotism, saying they had “played an important role” in maintaining the city’s prosperity and stability and the country’s opening up, according to the office.

On a separate occasion, he met top managers of the city’s major financial institutions including the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Securities and Futures Commission and Hong Kong stock exchange.

The city’s principal financial officials attended some of the sessions. Following one, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui Ching-yu said: “Director Xia highly values Hong Kong’s status as the country’s financial centre and its past contributions to national development.

“We should devote our minds to developing the financial market, boosting the Stock Connect [scheme with mainland China] and expanding the offshore renminbi market.”

Finance Chief Paul Chan Mo-po on Wednesday said the city’s deficit would be HK$101.6 billion (US$12.98 billion) in the financial year ending March 31, compounded by a slow post-pandemic economic recovery both in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

40 business chambers at meeting

American and British chambers of commerce were among business groups at a 90-minute meeting with Xia on Monday. Attendees said 15 representatives spoke at the session, including three from groups belonging to European countries, four from Southeast Asian ones, and one from a body from a Middle Eastern country.

They said the city’s proposed home-grown national security law was discussed, amid earlier reports that foreign business chambers and diplomats had expressed concern about risks to investment and potential enforcement standards that could affect their nationals.

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One source said Xia listed 10 things that made Hong Kong different from mainland Chinese cities, including the legal system, stock market, number of international banks and proficiency in English.

The attendee said concerns raised during the meeting were mainly about the city’s economy, which has been heavily battered by the three years of Covid-19, including greater connectivity to the Greater Bay Area, Beijing’s plan to link 11 southern cities into an economic powerhouse.

After the session, the HKMAO said Xia promised representatives that Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” governing principle would be kept as a permanent feature.

3 seafood and dim sum meals with councillors

In Xia’s first visit following the overhauled “patriots-only” district election, he chose to gauge views about district governance over a seafood lunch in Sai Kung with chairs of the city’s 18 district councils and home affairs officials.

The HKMAO said Xia called on them to “take actual actions to demonstrate their love for Hong Kong and the country, and play their role as a bridge between the city government and the people”.

He also had dim sum for breakfast over the weekend in Tseung Kwan O and Wong Tai Sin, where he met pro-Beijing district representatives and community organisations. He was briefed on the work of community care teams – an initiative introduced as part of Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s election pledges to form a government-sponsored network of volunteers – during the meal.

Accompanied by John Lee, Xia Baolong leaves a teahouse after meeting district representatives in Tseung Kwan O on the third day of his visit. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

Compared to his visit last year in which Xia greeted patrons at the restaurants, security was heightened for his meals this year, with a sizeable police presence outside the venues and restricted media access to the restaurants.

Police earlier said they had strengthened their deployment to ensure a smoother visit, including dispatching the Counter Terrorism Response Unit and armoured vehicles to conduct “high-profile” patrols at different locations.

3 deputy directors join tour

Newly appointed office deputy head Nong Rong grabbed the limelight in the high-level delegation led by Xia. The 56-year-old previously served as the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan between 2020 and 2023 and was an assistant foreign minister.

He joined Xia’s fact-finding trip with the two other deputy directors, Wang Linggui and Zheng Yanxiong, who also serves as liaison office head and Beijing’s top envoy in the city.

‘Geopolitical tensions helped spur Nong Rong’s move to Hong Kong affairs agency’

The appointment was announced on Friday, the second day of Xia’s visit, with China watchers saying the central government could expect him to help the city cultivate ties with Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries.

Xia is also the executive deputy head of the party’s powerful Central Leading Group, following Beijing’s move last year to elevate the HKMAO to directly answer to the Communist Party’s central leadership rather than the State Council.

Other than central government officials, the city leader joined Xia for much of his visit, attending more than 80 per cent of his events.

Officials such as Chief Secretary Eric Chan Kwok-ki, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po and home affairs chief Alice Mak Mei-kuen, as well as staff from the chief executive’s policy unit were also seen accompanying Xia on multiple occasions.


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