Authorities deployed huge security forces around Hong Kong on Friday as Chinese President Xi Jinping prepared to swear allegiance to the city’s new leader and attend celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the surrender of the former British colony to Beijing.
Red lanterns and posters announcing a “new era of stability” adorned the main roads and paths near the port’s convention center, where the last colonial governor, Chris Patton, tearfully handed Hong Kong back to China in a rainy ceremony in 1997.
Some analysts see Xi’s visit as a victorious tour after Beijing tightened its control over Hong Kong with a broad national security law following mass pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Arriving in Hong Kong on Thursday afternoon, Xi said the city had overcome its challenges and “risen from the ashes.”
Former Hong Kong security chief John Lee, who has been sanctioned by the United States for his role in enforcing the new national security law, is taking over at a time when the global financial center is facing an exit from people and talent amid some of the most -the heaviest COVID -19 restrictions in the world.
Xi’s trip to Hong Kong is his first since 2017, when he was sworn in as the city’s first female leader, Kari Lam, who is watching some of the most tumultuous times in the area, marked by anti-government protests in 2019 and the COVID epidemic.
Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, under the formula “one country, two systems”, which guarantees broad autonomy and judicial independence, which is not the case in mainland China.
Critics of the government, including Western countries, have accused the authorities of trampling on these freedoms, which Beijing and Hong Kong have rejected.