Connors had covered the anti-government protests that have rocked Hong Kong for months.
Luo Huining, the former Communist Party Secretary of Shanxi Province, will replace the outgoing Wang Zhimin as the head of the Hong Kong Liaison Office, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
The Sunday protest comes during a period of heightened anti-mainland sentiment in Hong Kong, where a pro-democracy movement demanding greater freedoms from Beijing has raged for almost seven months.
Some 40 parliamentarians and dignitaries from 18 countries sent an open letter to Ms Carrie Lam on New Year's Eve, urging her to "seek genuine ways forward out of this crisis by addressing the grievances of Hong Kong people".
Hong Kong sank into recession for the first time in a decade in the third quarter previous year as the protests plunged the city into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
The marchers, including families with children, shouted slogans such as "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times!" and "Patriots use China-made products, don't parallel trade!"
"Luo's appointment probably signals a hard-line policy from Beijing - that we don't give a damn about your feelings", said Chen Zhao, co-founder of the Montreal-based research firm Alpine Macro, who has insights on China after attending university with some of the nation's high-ranking officials.
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The announcement came after Xi in his New Year's address expressed concern over the situation in Hong Kong where the locals carried out pro-democracy protests.
Executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Dane Cheng, said on Saturday that then number of tourists to Hong Kong was predicted to decline around 14 percent in 2019.
The protests continued despite the withdrawal of the bill.
"His past experiences show Luo is politically mature and has a tacit understanding with the central government", he said.
"Without a harmonious and stable environment, how can people live in peace and enjoy their work?" "Hong Kong's prosperity and stability is the wish of Hong Kong compatriots and the expectation of our motherland".
China and the Hong Kong administration have refused to bow to protester demands, which include direct elections, an inquiry into alleged police misconduct and amnesty for the almost 7,000 people arrested so far.