Jan 4, 2020

China signals hardline approach to Hong Kong with new top official

Wang Zhimin addresses a symposium to mark China's sixth Constitution Day, Dec. 4, 2019. Photo: Liu Siuwai/Xinhua via Getty

The Chinese government replaced its top Hong Kong representative on Saturday with a senior Communist Party official known for bringing party discipline to unruly provinces, the New York Times reports, citing the state-run Xinhua news service.

Why it matters: After seven months of often violent pro-democracy protests, Beijing decided to make a change in personnel to a role that operates mainly through behind-the-scenes influence. But the selection of Luo Huining as top representative likely indicates not a softening of Beijing's position toward Hong Kongers' demands, but rather a further entrenchment of its hardline approach.

  • This swap makes former Central Liaison Office head Wang Zhimin the first senior official to lose his title after the protests, per NYT.
  • Luo has served as the Communist Party secretary in two provinces.
  • China said it would introduce steps to "safeguard national security" in Hong Kong in November, but did not provide specifics.

Between the lines: Wang "made no move to stop scheduled elections for neighborhood district councils in November, in the mistaken confidence that pro-Beijing candidates would maintain their longstanding dominance," per the Times.

Our thought bubble: The Chinese Communist Party's mismanagement of Hong Kong has plunged it into a months-long political crisis, as massive protests have torn apart the city's social fabric and crippled its economy.

  • It's clear that Chinese President Xi Jinping has drawn a hard line, refusing to meet protester's demands for police accountability and the resignation of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
  • This swap could be the latest step toward the "mainlandization" of a Chinese city that has traditionally enjoyed far greater political and civil freedoms than its mainland counterparts.

Go deeper: Trump signs bill expressing support for Hong Kong protesters

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Taiwan's president wins re-election in retort to Chinese efforts

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen smiles as she leaves after casting her vote in the presidential election on January 11, 2020 in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo: Carl Court / Staff/Getty Images

Taiwanese voters re-elected President Tsai Ing-wen in the general election on Saturday, as opposition leader Han Kuo-yu conceded defeat and offered his congratulations, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters per Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: After offering voters a stark choice between a democracy with her or dictatorship with China, Tsai has won re-election in a stunning retort to Beijing — she received more votes than any candidate in Taiwan’s democratic history.

Go deeperArrowJan 11, 2020

University of Minnesota student jailed in China over tweets

Xi Jinping. Photo: Noel Celis - Pool/ Getty Images

A Chinese student at the University of Minnesota has been arrested in China and sentenced to six months in prison for tweets he posted while in the United States, according to a Chinese court document viewed by Axios. Some of the tweets contained images deemed to be unflattering portrayals of a "national leader."

Why it matters: The case represents a dramatic escalation of the Chinese government's attempts to shut down free speech abroad and a global expansion of a Chinese police campaign to track down Twitter users in China who posted content critical of the Chinese government.

Go deeperArrowJan 23, 2020

We're entering a new golden age of China journalism

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A growing number of investigative journalists and news organizations around the world are investing more resources in covering China from afar.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party claims China's rise offers the world an alternative to western leadership and values. In the coming decade, journalism is vital to understanding exactly what kind of global leader China will be.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020 - World