Published: Sat, February 15, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Zhang Xiaoming replaced as head of HKMAO

Zhang Xiaoming replaced as head of HKMAO

China named an official known for tearing crosses from the roofs of churches to lead the agency that oversees Hong Kong, in the biggest shakeup yet after months of unrest.

China's Human Resources Ministry announced on February 13 that Zhang Xiaoming would be removed as director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), to be replaced by Xia Baolong, a 67-year-old vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

According to observers, the shocking removal of Zhang Xiaoming announces "more direct control" by President Xi Jinping over the two territories.

Xia served as Xi's deputy when the president was party secretary of Zhejiang province from 2003 to 2007.

"Xi now has his proteges in place over Hong Kong for the first time", said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of political science at the Hong Kong Baptist University.

Health experts have sounded warnings after a cluster of cases were discovered in one Hong Kong family who shared a hotpot with a carrier from China over the Chinese New Year holidays.

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American Airlines Group Inc, the largest USA 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.

The rare appointment of such a senior official potentially signals a permanent overhaul in how Beijing manages the former British colony.

Hong Kong has been roiled by more than seven months of protests over a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

He was subsequently appointed to a leadership role on the CPPCC, the nation's political advisory body and a post usually seen as a transition toward retirement for senior leaders.

In recent days, Hong Kong's leaders have faced criticism as well over shortages of masks and resources that emerged in their handling of a virus epidemic starting from the mainland.

Air Canada said it will temporarily suspend its daily Toronto-Hong Kong flights due to "reduced market demand" from March 1 to March 27, and extend its suspension of flights to Beijing and Shanghai until March 27 in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Ticketholders who had planned to fly to Hong Kong are also eligible if tickets were purchased before January 23. His appointment came amid a purge of officials in Hubei, the province wracked by the coronavirus outbreak.

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