In a move to increase central control over Hong Kong, China has replaced its top official responsible for the British colony, the government said Friday.

Since the June 1989 crackdown of a pro-democracy movement in Beijing that was popularly supported in Hong Kong, Communist China has sought to tighten control over the territory before it reverts to Chinese rule in 1997.Tens of thousands of the colony's residents concerned about Communist control have sought permission to move out.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said Lu Ping, who has been deputy director since 1987, will take over the directorship. He replaces Ji Pengfei, who headed the office for eight years.