China's Xi in Hong Kong ahead of handover anniversary
Hong Kong, Jun 30: Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Hong Kong on Thursday ahead of events to mark the 25th anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China.
The July 1 anniversary of the handover has been marked in the past with peaceful pro-democracy protests with tens of thousands of people. This year, however, authorities are clamping down to eliminate public opposition to China's rule over the financial hub.
What is expected for Xi's trip?
Xi's visit in Hong Kong on Thursday, and his expected appearance during anniversary events on Friday, marks the first time the president has traveled outside mainland China since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Details of his visit have been kept secret, but he was expected to make an appearance on Thursday in Hong Kong before spending the night back on the mainland in neighboring Shenzhen.
He is then expected to return to Hong Kong on Friday for events marking the handover anniversary.
Xi's last visit to the former British colony was in 2017 to swear in outgoing city leader Carrie Lam.
Strict control over handover anniversary events
Security is tight for Xi's visit, with authorities keen to ensure no public displays of opposition to the Chinese leader and Beijing's uncompromising rule.
Coronavirus restrictions are also tight for those traveling in his circle and for politicians due to meet with the president.
Over a dozen local and international journalists were denied accreditation to cover the handover celebrations, news agency AFP reported.
One of Hong Kong's last remaining opposition groups, the League of Social Democrats, said it would not protest on July 1, stating that national security officers spoke
Hong Kong's top polling group has also held off on publishing the results of a survey on the government's popularity, citing a government "risk assessment."
What is the situation in Hong Kong?
The anniversary celebrations follow turbulent years in Hong Kong.
Mass gatherings have essentially disappeared due to a combination of strict coronavirus restrictions and a crackdown on dissent under a new national security law.
In 2019, the financial hub was rocked by months of pro-democracy protests that led to the arrest of over 10,000 people.
By July 2020, Hong Kong enacted Beijing's national security law which criminalized any acts of "secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers."
Under the law, dozens of activists and opposition figures have been arrested, pro-democracy media outlets have been closed and opposition lawmakers have been removed from the city's legislative council.
The crackdown has added to the tension between Beijing and the United States, Europe, Japan and other Asian governments.