Xi is expected to spend two days at the financial center and attend a series of official events marking the July 1 handover and the inauguration of John Lee, the city’s next chief of staff, the former police officer and security chief.
Nearly 900 days after Shi’s last left the mainland on January 17, 2020, his diplomatic activities have been limited to virtual summits and video conferences, which give particular importance to his trip to Hong Kong.
Shi arrived in the city on Thursday afternoon by high-speed train from the Chinese border town of Shenzhen, where he was greeted by a large crowd waving national flags and chanting “Welcome, welcome, warm welcome.”
He was then carried on the red carpet, where colorful lion dancers, drums, chants and trumpets were assembled.
Xi was first greeted by outgoing Hong Kong chief executive Gary Lam and his top officials. After exchanging a few words, Xi and his delegation slowly made their way through the station, waving to the crowd and talking to the other officers present.
“It’s been more than five years since I last moved to Hong Kong. For the past five years, I’m been very focused and caring in Hong Kong,” Xi later said in a short speech.
“For the past few years, Hong Kong has been facing severe trials one after another, overcoming one danger after another. After facing the storms, Hong Kong emerged with vigor from the ashes.”
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“If we calculate the total costs and benefits, our Govt policies are very economical and effective,” G said, adding that China has the potential to continue its zero Govt approach “until the ultimate victory”.
Prior to Ji’s arrival, Hong Kong imposed a variety of Govt restrictions. As of last week, top officials have been banned from attending public events and the use of private vehicles while traveling. They are subjected to daily Govt checks and are expected to spend Thursday night in an isolated hotel before the handover ceremony on Friday.
Arriving in a changed city
Xi last traveled to Hong Kong in 2017 to mark his 20th anniversary, when he met in the streets full of pro-democracy protesters.
Subsequent repression led to the imprisonment or deportation of almost all of Hong Kong’s leading pro-democracy figures, activists and politicians.
Of the remaining organizations, no one has applied for permission to hold peaceful protests during Ji’s visit, police said. The League of Social Democrats, one of the few remaining pro-democracy political parties, said it would not hold any protests after several members met with the National Security Police.
The Hong Kong government has repeatedly defended the National Security Act, saying it will restore order in the city, which was rocked by pro-democracy, anti-government protests in 2019.
Places closed, aircraft restricted area
Without any chance, the police have beefed up security and closed areas near key locations. Pedestrian sidewalks, highways and a train station in some of Hong Kong’s busiest areas are temporarily closed on Thursdays and Fridays.
While drone use has been banned throughout Ji’s arrival, a no-fly zone has been established across the city’s port.
According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), at least 10 journalists working for local and international organizations have had their applications covered, including events that have been rejected “for security reasons”.
“The HKJA is deeply saddened by the harsh reporting arrangements made by the authorities for such an important event, as the media has not been able to send journalists to the ground,” the press team said on Tuesday.
Kathleen Macro of CNN contributed to the reporting.