Beijing weighs replacing Wang Zhimin, monitoring HK from Shenzhen villa, report says

Local | 26 Nov 2019 9:48 am

Tightening control over efforts to manage the upheaval in Hong Kong, the Chinese leadership has set up a crisis command center in a villa on the outskirts of Shenzhen and is considering replacing its official liaison to the city, people familiar with the matter said, Reuters reports in an exclusive.
Ordinarily, communications between Beijing and Hong Kong go through a Chinese government body: the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong. The Liaison Office is housed in a skyscraper stacked with surveillance cameras, ringed by steel barricades and topped by a reinforced glass globe.
In a sign of dissatisfaction with the Liaison Office's handling of the crisis, Beijing is considering potential replacements for the body's director, Wang Zhimin, two people familiar with the situation said.
The office has come in for criticism in Hong Kong and China for misjudging the situation.

"The Liaison Office has been mingling with the rich people and mainland elites in the city and isolated itself from the people," a Chinese official said. "This needs to be changed."
The State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the Liaison Office in Hong Kong did not reply to faxed requests for comment.
The office of the Chief Executive Carrie Lam declined to comment for this story.

The crisis center is located at the secluded Bauhinia Villa, a property owned by the Hong Kong Liaison Office, according to sources and official media, and named after the orchid that adorns the Hong Kong flag and currency. The villa, has served as a crisis center before: senior Chinese officials stayed at the resort during the pro-democracy "Occupy Central" protests in 2014.
Top mainland officials have been gathering at the leafy compound to plot strategy and issue instructions aimed at defusing the crisis, according to six people familiar with the
matter. Beijing authorities have been summoning key Hong Kong officials to meet at the villa during the five months of the increasingly violent anti-government protests, the sources said.
Among those who have attended, two of the people said, is embattled leader Carrie Lam, who in September scrapped the controversial extradition bill that had ignited the
protests, with approval by China's top leadership. Hong Kong police officials, business leaders and local pro-Beijing politicians have been summoned to the villa as well.
In an indication of the operation's importance, Chinese President Xi Jinping is receiving daily written briefings from Bauhinia Villa, said two officials and another person familiar with the operation.
The mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.


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