President Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong this week to celebrate 20 years since the former British colony’s return to China, state media confirmed today, a trip that will stoke resentment among pro-democracy activists. It will be Xi’s first visit to Hong Kong since the head of the Communist Party became president in 2013.
Xi will be in the city from Thursday to Sunday to attend a ceremony marking the anniversary of the handover, which took place on July 1, 1997. The Chinese leader will also take part in the inauguration of the fifth administration of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the semi-autonomous city’s government. Xinhua did not provide more details about the trip.
Carrie Lam, a former career civil servant, was chosen in late March as the city’s new chief executive and will be sworn in on July 1.
Xi’s visit comes at a time when Beijing stands accused of squeezing the city’s freedoms and frustrations have led to the emergence of a new independence movement calling for Hong Kong to break from the mainland. Protesters say they are preparing to gather during the handover celebrations and Xi’s visit will be shrouded in a huge security operation.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper gave a detailed itinerary of the trip last week. Xi, who will be accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan, will tour the garrison of China’s People’s Liberation Army in central Hong Kong and an infrastructure project, the Post said.
Hong Kong was handed back to China by colonial power Britain in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” deal designed to protect its freedoms and way of life for 50 years. But a number of incidents, including the disqualification from parliament of two pro-independence lawmakers and the alleged abduction of five Hong Kong booksellers, have raised fears that Beijing is trampling the agreement.