USA airlines extend China flight cancellations into late April

Elias Hubbard
February 14, 2020

Senior Beijing official Xia Baolong, now secretary-general at the national committee of China's top political advisory body, was promoted to director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council.

"(Xi) wants fresh blood, people he can trust, who are going to bring Hong Kong closer to China", he said.

Zhang's demotion, together with the appointment of 67-year-old Xia, underscores a potentially more assertive approach by Xi in how he manages Hong Kong's affairs, analysts said.

Flights to Hong Kong will also be cancelled by many airlines, were set to resume on February 21 and flights bound to mainland China were pushed back to March 28. Xia is a former close aide to President Xi Jinping and served as Communist Party chief of Zhejiang province during the crackdown on Christian churches.

"The reshuffling at this interesting moment may point to a deep distrust from Xi Jinping toward the former faction dealing with Hong Kong affairs", said Sonny Lo, a Hong Kong-based academic and political commentator.

China has already indicated its desire to bring Hong Kong under tighter control after a key Communist party meeting, the Fourth Plenum, in November a year ago.

American Airlines Group Inc, the largest US carrier, said on Tuesday it was extending the suspension of its China and Hong Kong flights through April 24, amid reduced demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.

People take part in a'universal siege on communists rally at Chater Garden in Hong Kong Jan. 19 2020.              AFP
People take part in a'universal siege on communists rally at Chater Garden in Hong Kong Jan. 19 2020. AFP

Zhang Xiaoming was re-appointed as a deputy director in charge of daily operations at the office instead, and will be replaced by senior Beijing official Xia Baolong as director. "This would definitely have an impact on Hong Kong's civil society".

The personnel changes are aimed at boosting coordination between Beijing and Hong Kong, Cabestan said, as well as giving more support to the pro-establishment camp in Hong Kong's Legislative Council.

Xia's push in 2014 and 2015 to tear down crosses on the roofs of churches in the eastern province of Zhejiang was widely criticised by the global community.

"Xia is not a moderate and he has shown himself to be a zealous servant of Xi Jinping".

Zhang had backed the controversial extradition bill, telling a visiting Hong Kong delegation how urgent it was that Hong Kong pass the measure, Reuters reported in December.

Beijing also said on Thursday that it had named Luo and Fu Ziying, the director of the Macau liaison office, as new deputy directors of the HKMAO, in addition to their existing posts.

It also called for Hong Kong to ideal its legal system to "safeguard national security", "strengthen law enforcement power", and increase "patriotic education" of young people and civil servants.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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