By ZEN SOO
HONG KONG (AP) — Chinese language chief Xi Jinping arrived Thursday in Hong Kong to have fun the twenty fifth anniversary of the British handover of a metropolis that his rule has reworked from a worldwide hub recognized for its political freedoms to at least one that’s far more tightly managed by the Communist Social gathering.
In a staged occasion carried stay on Chinese language TV, college students and others lined the platform of a high-speed rail station and packed a pink carpet to greet the chief making his first journey outdoors of mainland China in almost 2 ½ years — a selection that underscored Hong Kong’s ever-closer ties to the mainland. Waving small pink Chinese language and Hong Kong flags, the scholars chanted “Welcome, welcome! Heat welcome!” whereas metropolis chief Carrie Lam greeted Xi and his spouse, Peng Liyuan.
Beneath Xi’s management, China has reshaped Hong Kong, cracking down on protests, imposing a strict nationwide safety legislation used to silence dissent, introducing a extra “patriotic” curriculum in colleges, and revamping election legal guidelines to maintain opposition politicians out of the town’s Legislature. The adjustments have all however eradicated dissenting voices in a spot as soon as recognized for its vibrant political debate and have pushed many to depart.
In its view, China’s ruling Communist Social gathering has restored stability to a metropolis that was wracked with pro-democracy protests in 2019. For a lot of within the U.S., the U.Ok. and different democratic nations, Xi has undermined the freedoms and lifestyle that distinguished the town from mainland China and made it a worldwide middle for finance and commerce.
In an obvious reference to the 2019 protests, Xi advised well-wishers on his arrival that Hong Kong has overcome many challenges over time and had been “reborn from the ashes” with “vigorous vitality.” Later after assembly with Lam, he praised her for ending what he mentioned was chaos that had gripped the town and for making certain that solely “patriots” would rule Hong Kong.
“So long as we persist with the ‘one nation, two techniques’ framework, Hong Kong will definitely have a brighter future and can make new and larger contributions to the nice rejuvenation of the Chinese language individuals,” he mentioned in a speech on the Hong Kong West Kowloon prepare station.
Since Britain returned the territory to Chinese language rule on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong has been a particular administrative area that, like close by Macao, is ruled individually from the remainder of China. However Xi has steadily eroded that distinction, and critics say, undermined the coverage of sustaining two techniques.
On Friday, he’ll have fun the anniversary of the handover and officiate on the swearing in of John Lee, who will succeed Lam as metropolis chief.
It’s Xi’s first time outdoors of mainland China because the COVID-19 pandemic took maintain and Beijing imposed a “zero-COVID” coverage that features extreme restrictions on journey. It’s additionally his first go to to Hong Kong because the huge protests that grew to incorporate requires broader democratic freedoms — however solely appeared to harden Beijing’s resolve to restrict civil liberties within the territory.
The mix of China’s COVID-19 insurance policies and its crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong have dramatically modified the town previously two years.
Beijing has used the nationwide safety legislation to arrest over 150 pro-democracy activists and supporters. Nationwide safety police have focused the town’s most outspoken pro-democracy media in Hong Kong, with raids that pressured a number of retailers to close down, together with the town’s final pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Each day.
The adjustments to election legal guidelines diminished the variety of lawmakers who’re immediately voted in, and a brand new committee now vets the purposes of these planning to run for workplace, to make sure they’re “patriots” loyal to Beijing. Many say that has turned the Legislature right into a physique that merely gives a rubber stamp for Beijing’s insurance policies.
In the meantime, powerful COVID-19 quarantine restrictions for incoming vacationers have led to what observers name “mind drain” as tens of 1000’s left for cities like Singapore and Dubai which have resumed quarantine-free journey.
As a part of his rigorously choreographed go to, Xi met Thursday with some 160 individuals from numerous sectors of Hong Kong, together with businessmen, spiritual leaders and politicians. He then visited the Hong Kong Science Park to examine Hong Kong’s growth of innovation and know-how, in response to a authorities assertion.
Earlier this week, 1000’s of visitors for the July 1 occasions — together with high officers, lawmakers and diplomats — checked in to quarantine motels and have taken day by day assessments as a part of coronavirus precautions.
Police have additionally ramped up safety, designating safety zones and street closures in addition to a no-fly zone for Friday.
Greater than 10 journalists from native and worldwide media retailers had their purposes to cowl the July 1 occasions rejected this week on “safety grounds.”
Related Press information assistant Caroline Chen in Beijing contributed to this report.