Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong has gone on a charm offensive in the city, announcing that its annual spring reception will be broadcasted live on its website on Friday.
Posting a video and a message on its WeChat social media platform on Thursday, the liaison office said it wanted to celebrate its “friendship and the Lunar New Year festival with Hong Kong residents”.
“Our first ‘cloud reception’ will be held online on Friday at 5pm … It will be broadcasted live on our WeChat platform, residents can also watch it through various television stations and new media platforms,” the message reads.
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Accompanying the liaison office’s message was a 25-second video trailer. In a reference to the coming Year of the Ox, the video started with a short animation showing two oxen running towards the liaison office, as the city celebrated Lunar New Year with fireworks.
Then the video featured liaison office director Luo Huining saying “Happy New Year” in Cantonese. The video also showed two people bringing two small pots of auspicious plants to the liaison office compound, where others were decorating the interiors with fai chun – or blessings written on red paper.
The liaison office in Western district was regarded by Hong Kong people as a relatively mysterious place, where low-profile mainland Chinese officials met pro-establishment politicians.
From 2018 to 2019, then liaison office chief Wang Zhimin sought to change that public image by organising three open days – two for thousands for residents, and one for hundreds of educators.
But since Luo took over a year ago, no open day has been held because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since Hong Kong’s return from British rule in 1997, the liaison office has organised an annual cocktail gathering to celebrate Lunar New Year. In recent years, it was usually held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, with thousands of politicians, community leaders and diplomats invited and the liaison office director giving a speech.
Leaders from the city’s opposition camp were also invited in the past, until they boycotted the occasion, as their relationship with Beijing soured.
This year, the liaison office has decided to organise the reception through video conferencing and broadcast it live on its website. Pro-establishment politicians were told about the arrangement earlier this month.
According to the liaison office, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, former leaders Tung Chee-hwa and Leung Chun-ying, as well as Zheng Yanxiong, director of Beijing’s national security office in Hong Kong; Yang Yirui, acting commissioner of the Chinese foreign ministry’s office in Hong Kong, and Chen Daoxiang, commander of the Chinese army’s Hong Kong garrison, will be attending the online reception.