02/13/2020, 11.32
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The echo of the protests over Macao and Hong Kong Bureau reshuffle

Observers point to the months of unrest in the former British colony as the main cause of the change. The new director Xia Baolong and his deputy are "president’s men". During his term as Secretary of the Zhejiang Party, Xia launched a campaign to destroy crosses and churches.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Change at the top of the Macao and Hong Kong Affairs Bureau: this morning Beijing downgraded the current director, Zhang Xiaoming, to deputy director with responsibility for current affairs. Also today, the state media announced that the Chinese government had chosen Xia Baolong (photo), vice president and secretary general of the 13th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in his place.

According to observers, the shocking removal of Zhang Xiaoming announces "more direct control" by President Xi Jinping over the two territories. Many consider Zhang's withdrawal a punishment for the months of unrest in Hong Kong that began with street protests against the controversial extradition bill.

Under the new directives, the heads of the central government liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macau - Luo Huining and Fu Ziying - will also serve as deputy directors under Xia. Luo Huining had been appointed only last month to replace Wang Zhimin. Political analysts are not surprised by the close appointments of Xia and Luo: in Party circles, the two are considered "president’s men " Xi Jinping.

The 67-year-old Xia began his political career in the Communist Youth League. He served as deputy mayor of Tianjin (1997-2003), governor (2011-2012) and secretary of the Communist Party of Zhejiang province (2012-2017). Xia has worked in Zhejiang since 2003, and for four years worked closely with Xi Jinping, the current Chinese president, when he was party secretary in the province.

During his term as party secretary in Zhejiang, in the name of urban planning, Xia launched a three-year campaign to destroy the crosses and demolish the churches. Between the end of 2013 and April 2016, around 1,500 churches, mostly Protestant, were removed and affected. A few dozen pastors and lay faithful who wanted to defend their crosses were arrested, threatened and tried. The authorities also tried and sentenced lawyers who defended Christian communities.

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