Hong Kong reshuffles government as war of words intensifies with Beijing

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s state council approved a Hong Kong government shake-up on Wednesday at a time when Beijing is reaffirming its authority over the city, raising political tensions and risking a revival of anti-government protests after months of relative calm.

Hong Kong’s Director of Immigration, Erick Tsang, will replace Patrick Nip as head of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The move comes two days after Nip apologised for conflicting statements over the role of Beijing’s two agencies overseeing the Chinese-ruled city’s affairs.

Nip has been reassigned as the head of the city’s civil service, replacing Joshua Law, Xinhua said.

The shake-up is the biggest under the administration of embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who has rejected repeated calls to step down even after admitting she had caused “unforgivable havoc” by igniting political turmoil last year.

Protests that escalated in June evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement that is expected to pick up steam after a lull amid the coronavirus outbreak, as debate rages over Beijing’s increasing influence in the global financial hub.

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Ratcheting up tensions in the past week, Beijing’s top representative office in the city enraged democrats when it said it was not bound by a law that restricts interference by other mainland Chinese agencies in the former British colony.

The remarks prompted conflicting statements from the Hong Kong government at the weekend regarding the legal status of Beijing’s Liaison Office, and Nip apologised for the confusion.

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