Hong Kong police have confirmed that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the city this week for the 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule.
Xi will attend several official events including the inauguration of Hong Kong’s next leader, former security chief John Lee, on Friday, Assistant Police Commissioner Lui Kam-ho said at a news conference on Tuesday.
The Chinese leader’s visit will be his first trip outside mainland China since the coronavirus pandemic took hold about two and half years ago.
The visit comes as Hong Kong is facing a new spike in infections following what was by far its worst and deadliest COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year.
The United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997. The anniversary is highly symbolic for Xi, who wants to be seen as propelling a “national rejuvenation” as he prepares to start an expected third five-year term as head of China’s ruling Communist Party later this year.
Part of that rejuvenation is erasing the legacy of colonialism and what the party regards as unequal treaties that granted territorial concessions to Britain and other foreign nations during the waning years of the Qing Dynasty, which ended in 1911.
Friday will also mark the halfway point of the so-called “one country, two systems” framework which was supposed to safeguard Hong Kong’s freedoms and way of life for at least 50 years.
In July 2017, Xi attended the swearing-in of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam as part of a three-day trip, which also included a visit to the local Chinese army barracks.
But the protests that accompanied that trip are unlikely to be repeated this year, because a Beijing-imposed national security law has effectively stifled any criticism or dissent.
A series of security measures will be put in place to protect Xi, including security zones and road closures around the venue for the ceremony, police said.
Barriers have already been erected in the area.
“We will not tolerate anything that may interfere and undermine the security operation,” Lui said.
“In the event that any person behaves in a manner that threatens life or property and undermines public order or endangers public safety, we will take resolute action,” Lui added.