Chinese leader Xi Jinping left mainland China for the first time since the beginning of the epidemic and arrived Hong Kong Thursday Before the twenty-fifth anniversary From the handover of the city from British rule to Chinese rule.
Xi is expected to spend two days in the financial center and attend a series of official events to celebrate the July 1 handover and the opening ceremony for Beijing’s incoming incoming leader John Lee, a former police officer and security chief.
In the nearly 900 days since Xi left the mainland on January 17, 2020, his diplomatic activities have been limited to virtual summits and video conferences, adding special significance to his trip to Hong Kong.
Xi arrived in the city on Thursday afternoon, aboard a high-speed train from the Chinese border city of Shenzhen, where he was met by a large crowd waving national flags and chanting in unison: “Welcome, welcome, warm welcome.”
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He was then escorted along the red carpet, where colorful lions dancers performed, adding to the noise of drumming, chanting and trumpeting.
Xi welcomed for the first time outgoing Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her top officials. After exchanging a few words, Xi and his party slowly made their way through the station, waving to the crowd and talking to the other officials present.
“It has been more than five years since my last visit to Hong Kong. Over the past five years, I have been paying close attention and care to Hong Kong,” Xi said in a short speech afterward.
“Over the past few years, Hong Kong has withstood one rigorous test after another and overcome one danger after another. After weathering the storms, Hong Kong has emerged from the ashes with great vitality.”
Xi’s arrival coincides with forecasts of a typhoon bringing high winds and rain, and comes after weeks of uncertainty over whether he will risk leaving the mainland. China’s strict zero-Covid bubbleto travel to a city that is now reporting more than 1,000 new Covid cases per day.
Under Xi, China Standing isolated from the world In adopting a zero-tolerance approach to the virus with the country’s international borders closed and travel strictly curtailed.
Xi reiterated the policy on Wednesday during a symbolic visit to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where The virus first appeared In late 2019, he said he would rather “temporarily sacrifice some economic growth” than “harm people’s health,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“If we calculate the total costs and benefits, our policies on the Covid virus are the most economical and effective,” Xi said, adding that China has the ability to continue its non-proliferation approach “until the final victory.”
While Hong Kong was severely affected Relentless in Beijing Health policies, implementing strict quarantine and border controls, as well as social distancing measures, have so far avoided the kind of prolonged citywide lockdown or compulsory mass testing seen in mainland cities such as Shanghai And the Xi’an.
Before Xi’s visit, Hong Kong imposed a set of COVID restrictions. As of last week, senior officials were banned from attending public events and restricted to using private vehicles on the go. They have also been tested daily for the Covid virus, and must spend Thursday night in a quarantine hotel before Friday’s handover ceremony.
The last time Xi visited Hong Kong to celebrate the handover was in 2017, marking the 20th anniversary, when he met streets filled with pro-democracy protesters.
But protests are not expected this year. Most Pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong It was dissolved after the enactment of the City’s Comprehensive National Security Act two years ago.
The subsequent crackdown has seen nearly all prominent pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong, including activists and politicians, either imprisoned or forced into exile.
Of the remaining organizations, none had applied for permits to hold peaceful protests during Xi’s trip, according to police. The League of Social Democrats, one of the few remaining pro-democracy political parties, said it would not organize any protests after several members met with the National Security Police.
Hong Kong’s government has repeatedly defended the national security law, saying it has restored order to the city, which was rocked by pro-democracy and anti-government protests in 2019.
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The police have reinforced security measures and closed off areas close to the main places, not taking any chances. Pedestrian bridges, highways and one train station in some of Hong Kong’s busiest areas were temporarily closed on Thursday and Friday.
A no-fly zone has also been established across the city’s port, with the use of drones restricted throughout Xi’s visit.
The authorities have too Media access is severely restricted To the handover ceremonies, a far cry from the open reporting environment and free local press of years past.
According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), at least 10 journalists working for local and international organizations to cover the events were rejected for “security reasons”.
“With the media’s inability to send journalists to the field, the Hong Kong Journalists Syndicate deeply regrets the strict coverage arrangements made by the authorities for such a major event,” the press group said on Tuesday.
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