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New top China official in HK brings wishes from 'motherland'

HONG KONG — As Hong Kong enters its eighth month of anti-government protests, Beijing’s new top official in the territory said Monday that he has full confidence in the city’s long-term prosperity and stability ?— so long as it has the support of mainland China.

“The motherland has always been Hong Kong’s most powerful backing,” Luo Huining said in his first public remarks since becoming the head of China’s liaison office in the city over the weekend. “For Hong Kong, one country, two systems is the greatest advantage.”

The semiautonomous Chinese territory is in its eighth month of fiery anti-government demonstrations. The movement, dominated by young people wary of President Xi Jinping’s Communist Party-led central government, began in response to now-withdrawn legislation that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to the mainland to stand trial.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under the so-called “one country, two systems framework,” which promises the city certain democratic rights not afforded to the mainland.

In recent years, Hong Kong residents have chafed at greater restrictions on public expression, including the jailing of pro-democracy activists.

“Over the last six months, Hong Kong’s situation has been worrying,” Luo said. He called the city the “Pearl of the Orient” and acknowledged Hong Kongers’ important contributions to China’s economic reform and opening up.

“I sincerely wish Hong Kong and Hong Kong compatriots well,” he said.

Luo is the former Communist Party chief of northern Shanxi province. He replaces Wang Zhimin, who had assumed office in September 2017. No official reason has been given for the change.

The Associated Press