On his arrival in the former British colony, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Thursday that Hong Kong has overcome its challenges and “rised from the ashes.” To celebrate the 25th anniversary of her return to Chinese rule.
Chinese President John Lee, the new leader of the global financial center, will be sworn in on Friday during his first visit to the city since 2017, also his first known trip outside the mainland in more than two years, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wearing masks, Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, got off a high-speed train to greet children waving flowers and Chinese and Hong Kong flags and chanting “hello, hello and warm welcome” in Mandarin.
“Hong Kong has withstood severe tests time and time again and has overcome challenges one by one,” Xi said in a short speech. “After the wind and rain, Hong Kong rose from the ashes.”
The authorities organized a lion dance celebration while a police band was playing. Security was tightened at the train station as the police carried out a stop and search check with the help of sniffer dogs.
Video: 🇭🇰🇬🇧🇹🇼 Hong Kong diaspora laments the city’s lost freedoms, 25 years later
Government estimates indicate that hundreds of thousands have left Hong Kong in the years leading up to the extradition from the UK to China. With 25 years since the area handed over, another exodus is underway pic.twitter.com/pvCuTSBTMw
– Agence France-Presse (AFP) 29 June 2022
Some analysts see Xi’s visit as a round of victory after Beijing tightened its control over Hong Kong with a sweeping national security law, following mass pro-democracy protests in 2019.
“It is a celebration of the victory of the central government over Hong Kong’s political opposition,” said John Burns, a professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong.
Outgoing city leader Carrie Lam and her husband were among those welcoming Xi at the station, which has not been used for two years due to Covid restrictions.
The city’s streets are decorated with red Chinese flags and posters announcing a “new era” of stability.
Xi’s full official schedule for the visit has not been released. It was not immediately clear if the festivities would be affected by an expected hurricane.
On his recent visit to Hong Kong, Xi warned against any actions that threaten China’s sovereignty, saying the city needs to strengthen national security arrangements.
While tens of thousands of protesters turned out during Xi’s visit five years ago, no protests are expected this time due to tighter security in the city and with the most outspoken opposition politicians and democracy activists either in prison or in self-exile.
Hong Kong has returned to Chinese rule under a “one country, two systems” formula meant to preserve its liberties, but critics say it has eroded with Beijing’s control.
The Beijing and Hong Kong government reject this, saying they have “restored order from chaos” so that the city could prosper.
Covid warnings and tests
Loi Kam Ho, a senior police officer, warned this week of any violence or public disorder. The police force, numbering more than 30,000, said it would deploy its resources to ensure security for the festivities.
– Agence France-Presse (AFP) 30 June 2022
Police sealed off parts of Hong Kong, closed roads and imposed a no-fly zone over Victoria Harbour.
Resident Karis Ho, 31, said the security measures were a nuisance to the public and “made Xi look sensitive”.
Angel Zhao, 62, was excited.
“It shows how much he values Hong Kong,” Zhao said.
Members of the pro-democracy ‘League of Social Democrats’ said they would cancel plans for demonstrations after national security officers warned them not to protest during Xi’s visit.
Media said the incoming leader is Lee, a former policeman imposed by the United States under national security law, and that Lam is undergoing daily COVID-19 checks and staying in a quarantine hotel for several days before Xi’s visit.
Hong Kong recorded 2,358 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with the number of daily infections rising.
China’s strategy of stamping out the Covid outbreak as soon as it occurs, at virtually any cost, contrasts with the global trend of living with the disease.
Some journalists were banned from covering the celebrations, as the Hong Kong government mentioned security requirements.
Xi, who is preparing to secure an unprecedented third term of leadership at a Communist Party congress this year, is expected to spend the night in the neighboring city of Shenzhen on Thursday before leaving Hong Kong on Friday.