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

Go deeper

NYT: White House drug price negotiations broke down over $100 "Trump Cards"

President Trump with Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, on Sept. 3 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Negotiations on a deal between the White House and pharmaceutical industry to lower drug prices broke down last month after Mark Meadows, the president's chief of staff, insisted that drugmakers pay for $100 cash cards to be mailed to seniors before the election, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: Some of the drug companies feared that in agreeing to the prescription cards — reportedly dubbed "Trump Cards" by some in the pharmaceutical industry — they would boost Trump's political standing weeks ahead of Election Day with voters over 65, a group that is crucial to the president's reelection bid, per the Times.

In photos: Virginians line up for hours on first day of early voting

Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

In some parts of Virginia, people waited in line up to four hours to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting, according to the Washington Post.

The big picture: The COVID-19 pandemic seems to already have an impact on how people cast their votes this election season. As many as 80 million Americans are expected to vote early, by mail or in person, Tom Bonier, CEO of TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm, told Axios in August.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 30,306,469 — Total deaths: 948,147— Total recoveries: 20,626,515Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 6,705,114 — Total deaths: 198,197 — Total recoveries: 2,540,334 — Total tests: 92,163,649Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.