Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Hong Kong on Thursday, prompting a massive security effort ahead of celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover to communist China.
Government leaders have been forced into a closed-loop system, parts of the city have been cordoned off, and many journalists have been barred from Friday’s events following a political crackdown on the city by the Communist Party. would demonstrate control, which decimated a democracy movement and quelled dissent.
Details about the visit, Xi’s first outside mainland China since the Covid-19 pandemic began, have been kept under wraps, but he is expected to appear in Hong Kong on Thursday and Friday.
However, according to local media, the Chinese leader will spend the night in neighboring Shenzhen on the mainland.
Those who came to Xi’s orbit during the trip, including top-ranking government officials, have been made to limit their social contacts, undergo daily PCR tests and check into a quarantine hotel in the days before the trip .
“To play safe, if we’re going to have a closer meeting with the paramount leader and other leaders, I think it’s worthwhile to go to a closed-loop arrangement,” Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing politician, told AFP.
The National Security Police has moved officers to eliminate any potential sources of embarrassment during Xi’s time in the city, with at least nine arrests in the past week.
The League of Social Democrats, one of Hong Kong’s few remaining opposition groups, said it would not show up on July 1 after national security officials spoke with volunteers associated with the group.
And Hong Kong’s top polling group announced it would delay publishing the results of a poll that gave government popularity “in response to suggestions from relevant government departments after their risk assessment”.
The handover anniversary on July 1 in Hong Kong has traditionally been marked by peaceful rallies taking to the streets every year.
But mass gatherings have essentially disappeared in Hong Kong over the past few years as part of a mix of coronavirus restrictions and a security crackdown aimed at eliminating any public opposition to China’s steadfast rule over the city.
patriotism on display
Authorities have strictly restricted media coverage of Xi’s visit, with the government barring many journalists from covering events around it.
As of Wednesday, AFP has confirmed that 13 local and international journalists had been denied recognition for covering the handover ceremony.
Two AFP journalists were fired, with a government official citing unspecified “security reasons”. A third AFP reporter was later recognized.
The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association expressed “deep regret” at the rejection and said the quarantine and testing requirements made it difficult for journalists to undergo staff replacement.
The government told the media that the decision was “as far as possible a balance between media work and security requirements”.
Police on Tuesday announced a massive road closure on Hong Kong Island and a temporary ban on flying drones across the city, citing security concerns.
Select sites in the financial center have also been closed, including the high-speed rail terminus, a performance venue for Chinese opera, and Hong Kong’s Science Park.
Several workers at the Science Park told AFP they had not received any information about Xi’s visit, but said they were told to work from home on Thursday.
Officials have also sought to paint an image of public support for the celebrations, which include large-scale displays of Hong Kong and China flags at dozens of public housing estates.
At one estate, a 26-year-old resident surnamed Chan complained about small flags that were put up on a staircase outside each floor. “It’s unnecessary and too much,” he told AFP.
Tony, an employee of the estate, said the performance would be better if it were done voluntarily by residents.
“Are we really adopting this ideology that much?” he told AFP.
“People can be driven out … if it’s overdone.”
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)