China removes top official in Hong Kong amid months-long protests

China removes top official in Hong Kong amid months-long protests
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China has replaced one of its top officials in Hong Kong as anti-government protests on the island enter their eighth month.

Luo Huining, the former Communist Party chief for Shanxi province, was tapped as the new top official for China’s liaison office in Hong Kong, according to the Xinhua News Agency. Luo replaces Wang Zhimin, who took the position in September 2017.

Wang is the first senior official to be removed in Hong Kong after months of protests, which have at times turned violent. He had spent most of his career on the island but garnered criticism for failing to anticipate the demonstrations. 

While Luo has served as the top official in two provinces and has experience in tough security measures, he has limited familiarity with Hong Kong, according to The New York Times

The protests in Hong Kong began in early June over a now-shelved extradition rule and have expanded to include several other demands, including universal suffrage and an independent investigation into allegations of excessive use of force by police in dealing with protesters.

While the violence surrounding the protests has diminished in the past month, occasional clashes between protesters and police still occur. Authorities used pepper spray, tear gas and a water cannon to disperse protesters during a New Year’s Day protest in which demonstrators damaged ATMs with spray paint and hammers.