China yesterday appointed a senior official known for a hardline crackdown on Christians to head its main policy-making body for Hong Kong, following months of pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous city. The reshuffle comes after months of political unrest -- the starkest challenge to Beijing since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Senior Beijing official Xia Baolong, currently secretary-general at the national committee of China's top political advisory body, was promoted to director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council. His predecessor Zhang Xiaoming was demoted to deputy in charge of daily operations. Xia, 67, was Communist Party secretary of eastern Zhejiang province for five years from 2012. Xia also served as Xi's deputy between 2003 and 2007 while the now-president was Zhejiang party secretary.