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Hong Kong on high alert as Xi Jinping visit expected for handover

#Hong #Kong #high #alert #Jinping #visit #expected #handover

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Hong Kong on Thursday, prompting a massive security tightening ahead of celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover to Communist China.

Government leaders have been forced into a closed system, parts of the city have been shut down and several journalists have been banned from Friday events showing Communist Party control of the city after a political crackdown that has dismantled a pro-democracy movement and crushed dissent.

Details surrounding the trip, Xi’s first trip outside of mainland China since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, have been kept secret but he is expected to perform in Hong Kong on Thursday and Friday.

However, the Chinese leader is likely to spend the night in neighboring mainland Shenzhen, according to local media.

Those arriving in Xi’s orbit during the trip, including top government officials, have been ordered to limit social contact, take daily PCR tests and check into a quarantine hotel in the days leading up to the visit.

“To be on the safe side, when we meet the supreme leader and other leaders up close, I think the agreements made are worth pursuing,” veteran pro-Beijing politician Regina Ip told AFP.

Authorities have scrambled to eliminate any potential source of embarrassment during Xi’s time in the city, with national security police making 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 demonstrate on July 1 after national security officials spoke to volunteers linked to the group.

And Hong Kong’s top polling body announced it would be delaying the release of the results of a poll assessing the government’s popularity “in response to suggestions from relevant government departments following their risk assessment”.

The anniversary of the July 1 handover in Hong Kong is traditionally marked each year by tens of thousands taking to the streets in peaceful rallies.

But mass gatherings have essentially disappeared in Hong Kong in recent years amid a mix of coronavirus restrictions and a security crackdown aimed at eradicating any public opposition to China’s all-out rule of the city.

– Patriotism on display –

Authorities have severely restricted media coverage of Xi’s visit, with the government barring several journalists from covering events in the area.

On Wednesday, AFP confirmed that 13 local and international journalists were denied accreditation to cover the handover ceremonies.

Two AFP reporters were among those who were denied, with a government official citing unspecified “security reasons”.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association expressed “deep regret” over the refusals and said the quarantine and testing requirements that reporters would have to undergo made staff exchanges difficult.

The government told the media the decision was “the best possible balance between the needs of media relations and security requirements”.

Police on Tuesday announced widespread road closures across Hong Kong island and temporarily banned drone flying across the city, citing safety concerns.

Select sites across the financial hub have also been locked down, including the high-speed rail terminus, a Chinese opera venue and Hong Kong’s Science Park.

A number of science park employees told AFP they had not received notification of a visit from Xi, but said they had been ordered to work from home on Thursday.

Authorities have also attempted to project an image of public support for the celebrations, including with mass displays of Hong Kong and China flags draped over dozens of public housing units.

At one property, a 26-year-old resident surnamed Chan complained about small flags posted on a stairwell in front of each floor. “It’s unnecessary and too much,” he told AFP news agency.

Tony, a worker on the property, said the exhibit would be better if residents volunteered to do it.

“Are we really embracing this ideology that much?” he told AFP.

“People can be repulsed…if overdone.”

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