Xi arrives in Hong Kong for the 25th anniversary of the handover


HONG KONG — Chinese leader Xi Jinping arrived in Hong Kong ahead of the 25th anniversary of British handover and after a two-year transformation bringing the city more tightly under Communist Party control. It is Xi’s first trip outside mainland China in nearly 2½ years.

Fans at the station waving Chinese and Hong Kong flags chanted “Welcome, welcome! Warm welcome!” as Xi’s train arrived at the station on Thursday.

Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were greeted by city leader Carrie Lam as they got off the train. Xi greeted supporters who welcomed him to the platform.

Elsewhere in the station, supporters stood on either side of a red carpet, also waving Chinese and Hong Kong flags. Some held banners welcoming Xi and a lion dance performance was held.

Xi is expected to speak about the future of Hong Kong at a ceremony on Friday marking the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997.

Under his leadership, China has reshaped Hong Kong over the past two years, cracking down on protest and free speech and introducing a more patriotic curriculum in schools. The changes virtually eliminated voices of opposition and caused many to leave.

Hong Kong and nearby Macau are special administrative regions that are governed separately from the rest of China, known as Mainland China.

Xi has not left China since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. China has maintained a strict “zero-COVID” policy which aims to keep the virus out. Xi’s last overseas trip was to Myanmar in January 2020.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to begin a two-day visit to Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover to mainland China, with a series of tightened security measures and thousands of guests quarantined before the celebrations.

Xi, who has not left mainland China since the pandemic began 2½ years ago, will attend a ceremony marking Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997 and officiate an inauguration ceremony of the new government led by new leader John Lee on Friday.

Xi is expected to arrive in the city by bullet train with his wife, Peng Liyuan, on Thursday afternoon, according to local newspaper South China Morning Post.

He is expected to visit the Hong Kong Science Park before meeting pro-Beijing politicians and tycoons, then attend a closed-door banquet hosted by outgoing Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, the newspaper said.

Xi and Peng will likely spend Thursday evening in the Chinese city of Shenzhen – 15 minutes from Hong Kong by high-speed train – and return to the city on Friday morning to witness the July Day events.

Ahead of his arrival on Thursday, thousands of guests – including senior officials, lawmakers and diplomats – checked into quarantine hotels earlier this week and took daily nucleic acid tests as part of precautions against coronaviruses.

Police also tightened security, designating safe zones and road closures as well as a no-fly zone for Friday.

More than 10 journalists from local and international media had their applications to cover the events of July 1 rejected earlier this week for “security reasons”, with the government saying it was “balancing the need for the work of the media and security requirements”.


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