The outlet also reported, citing unnamed sources, Beijing has established a crisis command center in the mainland border city of Shenzhen where top regime officials meet to deliberate on strategy in response to the protests.
They gather at Bauhinia Villa, a compound owned by Hong Kong Liaison Office (HKLO), Beijing’s representative office in the city, on the outskirts of Shenzhen, the report said.
Hong Kong has been embroiled in protests for nearly six months, with demonstrators rallying in opposition to the regime’s perceived encroachment on the city’s autonomy.
According to Reuters, Beijing has been summoning key Hong Kong officials, including the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, police officials, and pro-Beijing lawmakers, to meet at the villa.
The regime’s two most senior leaders overseeing Hong Kong affairs have been using the villa to deal directly with Hong Kong officials, the outlet reported. They are: Zhang Xiaoming, director of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), which sits under the cabinet-like State Council, who “has been a regular presence at the villa during the crisis;” and Han Zheng, Chinese vice premier and the regime’s top official overseeing Hong Kong affairs.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping also receives daily written briefings from the villa, Reuters reported.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Office in Hong Kong denied Reuter’s report, without elaborating, in a statement on its website Nov. 26.
This is the second time Bauhinia Villa was reported to have been used as a crisis center. During the mass pro-democracy movement in 2014, local media reported that then-director of the HKMAO Wang Yaguang used the villa to coordinate Beijing’s response to the unrest.
During the 2014 “Umbrella movement,” protesters occupied the city’s central business district for almost three months calling for universal suffrage.
A November 2014 report by Hong Kong Open Magazine, citing insiders, said that Wang arranged mainland intelligence agents to secretly interfere with the protests, hired about 2,000 Hong Kong gangsters to pretend to be protesters and stir up trouble, ordered mainland police to join the ranks of Hong Kong police and suppress the protesters, and organized pro-Beijing rallies.
Citing two unnamed sources, Reuters said Beijing is considering replacing Wang Zhimin, the director of the HKLO, the regime’s highest-ranking official stationed in Hong Kong, over complaints that his office had misjudged the situation in the city.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on Nov. 22 that Guo Shengkun, chair of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the regime’s head legal agency, was recently appointed to support Han in managing Hong Kong affairs.
The report said Guo accompanied Han to Shenzhen several times recently to meet with officials to discuss how to respond to the ongoing crisis.
According to Chinese state-run media Xinhua, Guo was promoted from minister of public security to this current position in 2017. He is also the party’s chief secretary of the People’s Armed Police, the regime’s paramilitary force.
Hong Kong media outlet Ming Pao reported on Nov. 17 that Han had recently visited Shenzhen six times, including on Nov. 15 when he organized an urgent meeting with other regime officials in response to the violent clashes between police and protesters at several Hong Kong universities that week.
The meeting was attended by key regime officials handling matters of security, including Guo, Minister of Public Security Zhao Kezhi, Minister of State Security Chen Wenqing, and You Quan, head of the United Front Work Department, the body tasked with running Chinese influence operations abroad.