Zhang Junsheng, a former representative of Beijing in Hong Kong, died on Monday in Hangzhou city in China’s eastern Zhejiang province at the age of 82.
Zhang, who served as deputy director of Xinhua News Agency’s Hong Kong branch, worked in the city from 1985 to 1998. He had been involved, among other things, in handling issues related to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China by the British colonial government.
According to Zhang’s secretary, he collapsed at home on Monday and was sent to hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:15 pm, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Expressing her sadness over the death of Zhang, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor noted that the Chinese official had worked in Hong Kong for a long period of time and was actively involved in the work for Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.
Zhang contributed a lot to the preparations for the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Lam added.
“With deep attachment to Hong Kong, he had been concerned about the affairs of the city even after he had left Hong Kong. I am saddened by his passing and extend my deepest condolences to his family,” Lam said in a statement.
Born in Changting in Fujian province in 1936, Zhang joined the Chinese Communist Party in the 1950s.
In 1985, a year after the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong’s future, he began working in Xinhua’s Hong Kong branch, moving from his previous post as deputy party secretary in Hangzhou.
He became deputy director of the branch two years later.
Zhang had said he dedicated the prime time of his life to Hong Kong, describing the handover of the city back to China as his real work.
Working to convey the Chinese positions during the transition period, Zhang was known for engaging in a war of words with Hong Kong’s last colonial governor Chris Patten.
Zhang had hoped to maintain good relationship between the United Kingdom and China but found himself facing criticism over a constitutional reform package proposal that was allegedly in breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the Basic Law and what the two nations had agreed to.
Despite somewhat acrimonious ties in the past, Patten, through a spokesperson, paid condolences to Zhang’s family on Monday.
After retiring in 1998, Zhang worked at various universities in the mainland, and continued to speak up about Hong Kong affairs.
During Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy pro-democracy protests, Zhang remarked that the movement can’t become a “color revolution” as there was no “energy” for the street occupation to reach that status.
The street occupation can at best be said to have caused disturbance in Hong Kong, he said, adding that the young people who participated in the movement were misled.
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