'Return to the right path', Beijing's new envoy tells Hong Kong

HONG KONG: Beijing new sent superior to Hong Kong He said he expected the city devastated by the protest to return to the right path when he took office on Monday.

Luo Huining replaced as head of Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong - the most significant personnel change by China since violent pro-democracy protests erupted in the city nearly seven months ago.

Luo, 65, made a brief statement to journalists in Mandarin, not to the city's Cantonese.

He gave little clue as to whether Beijing's approach towards the city would change as it convulses with popular anger against mainland rule.

In the past six months, Hong Kong's situation has made everybody's heart wrench. Everyone earnestly hopes that Hong Kong can return to the right path, Luo said, declining to take questions from reporters.

Millions have taken to the streets since June last year in a wave of protests caused by opposition to a proposal now abandoned to allow extraditions to mainland China.

But they soon morphed into wider demands for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability in the starkest challenge to Beijing since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

While large protest marches have been largely peaceful, smaller groups of hard-line protesters have repeatedly fought riot police with more than 6,500 arrested.

Luo struck a conciliatory tone in saying Hong Kong had made an important contribution to (China's) opening up and modernization.

And in a brief reference to political violence, he quoted the president Xi Jinping The New Year's speech that says without a harmonious and stable environment, how can there be a home where people can live and work happily.

The Liaison Office, whose director is the highest-ranking Chinese political official in Hong Kong, was targeted in July by protesters throwing eggs and graffitiing the building.

Luo previously served as governor of Qinghai Province, and was also appointed to senior positions of the Communist Party in the provinces of Qinghai and Shanxi, according to the state newspaper China Daily.

The state-owned CCTV network announced on Saturday that former director Wang Zhimin had been dismissed from office.