Xi Jinping is in Hong Kong

Domestic News

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is visiting Hong Kong for the 25th anniversary of the handover — his first trip to the city since the anti-government protests that began in 2019 and his first appearance outside the mainland in over two years.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping speaks to the media in Hong Kong, on June 30, 2022. Image via Hong Kong government.

General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 emerged off a high-speed bullet train and stepped foot in Hong Kong on Thursday afternoon, on a visit to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain. “He took no chances [on] a flight ban,” wrote one wry user on a quarantine support group for city residents on social media.

Outgoing city leader Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é) and her husband were among those who greeted Xi at the station, as people in masks waved flags and bouquets of flowers while chanting “Welcome, welcome, warmly welcome” in Mandarin.

  • While Xi inspected the Hong Kong Science Park, his wife, Péng Lìyuán 彭丽媛, went on a separate outing to the Xiqu Center, a performing arts venue dedicated to Chinese traditional theater and Cantonese opera.
  • A renowned soprano and contemporary folk singer, Peng presented a collection of traditional Chinese theater libretti as a gift to the center, just a short walk away from the controversial Hong Kong Palace Museum — a local version of a Beijing museum that holds the same name.

The strictly monitored visit is occurring in a muted environment: No protests are expected because authorities have restricted access to some press organizations and pushed the city’s security apparatus into high gear, while the most outspoken critics of Beijing and pro-democracy activists — including a 90-year-old cardinal — are either in jail or self-exile.

  • “The purpose is to ensure maximum safety,” Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee (葉劉淑儀 Yè Liúshūyí), an incoming member of Lee’s de facto cabinet who has also written in defense of the pro-Beijing stance, told the Financial Times. “There is no targeting of any particular media or individuals.”
  • Xi is also set to attend the swearing-in of the city’s next leader, John Lee Ka-chiu (李家超 Lǐ Jiāchāo), who won in a rubber-stamp election, and his cabinet on Friday, as every Chinese leader has done since the city’s first handover ceremony in 1997.

The two-day trip holds many firsts for Xi: It marks his first time in the city since 2017, his first known trip outside the mainland in 893 days since the start of the pandemic, and his first visit to Hong Kong since the 2019 anti-government protests roiled the Chinese-ruled territory for months.

  • “Hong Kong has withstood severe tests again and again, overcoming challenges one by one,” Xi said in a brief speech. “After the wind and rain, Hong Kong has risen from the ashes.”
  • For some, the visit comes as a “victory lap” for Beijing. But state-run news outlet Xinhua heralded Hong Kong’s “return to order” and reiterated that Xi’s “heart is always with Hong Kong compatriots.”

The reaction of Hong Kong residents has been hard to gauge, since many Hongkongers either opt for private messaging groups on WhatsApp’s end-to-end encrypted platform or hushed conversations behind closed doors to express their opinions.

Nadya Yeh