He chatted with shopkeepers, canvassed residents and stopped by a cha chaan teng, looking very much like a frontline politician than a mouthpiece for the government.
Zhang Xiaoming, head of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, visited Sheung Shui in the northern New Territories Thursday to get a first-hand feel for the impact of the individual visit scheme. The scheme has enabled a large number of mainlanders to come across the border and shop for daily necessities like infant formula, becoming a source of tension between Hongkongers and the mainland.
The trip and Zhang’s comments afterwards suggest more than a passing involvement in the city’s internal affairs and again raise the question of who is leading Hong Kong.
In a press release posted on the liaison office website, Zhang said any changes to the scheme will take account of the city’s capacity and try to minimize inconvenience to its residents.
The office said it will continue to listen to the public, reflect Hong Kong’s view to the central government, as well as proactively take part in and push for policy improvements.
The statement detailed Zhang’s stops in the district and came with four photos. Zhang was cast as down to earth and keen to understand conditions on the ground, making it seem like he is a Hong Kong government official.
Contrast those comments with the ones coming from the CY Leung administration. In those the chief executive mentioned only that Hong Kong needs to thank Beijing for the scheme because it has boosted the city’s economy.
Zhang was willing at least to visit the affected parties to hear what they had to say.
Beijing has clearly been playing an active role in Hong Kong internal affairs and the trip suggests that it has a backup team to run the city. More and more it seems that Beijing and CY Leung are jointly responsible for governing, rather than the Hong Kong SAR government doing so on its own. It’s looking less like one country, two systems and more like one SAR, two governments.
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