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(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong confirmed President Xi Jinping will attend events marking the 25th anniversary of Chinese rule in person, ending weeks of speculation over his plans as the financial hub sees rising Covid cases.
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Roads and some public transport facilities, such as MTR stations, will be closed in areas where Xi is expected, and drones will be banned across the city, “when our president visits Hong Kong,” the city’s police said at a Tuesday press briefing outlining security measures.
Xi will attend several events celebrating the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, officers confirmed, as well as the swearing-in ceremony of incoming Chief Executive John Lee and his government, a customary practice for a Chinese president.
The trip will be Xi’s first outside mainland China since January 2020, after his Covid Zero policy closed the nation’s borders and limited him to virtual attendance of international events. His decision to visit Hong Kong even as it records nearly 2,000 daily Covid cases signals his determination to stamp Beijing’s mark of control on the former British colony.
Since Xi’s last visit to the city in 2017, Hong Kong has seen huge anti-government protests that were sometimes violent and driven by resistance to Beijing’s perceived encroachment. Xi responded to that unrest by imposing a national security law in June 2020 that has since been used to purge Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition and crush dissent in the once free-wheeling city.
Assistant Police Commissioner Lui Kam-ho said Hong Kong police were “highly concerned about the possibility of local terrorism” at this week’s anniversary celebrations, adding that the city was operating at a mid-risk level.
On July 1 last year a 50-year-old man stabbed a Hong Kong policeman before killing himself, an act that officials later deemed a terrorism attack. National security police have arrested five people on sedition charges in the past week, with officers seizing a “large number of offensive weapons” in one raid, and a terrorism tip line has been established.
Police officials did not give details of Xi’s itinerary, including the dates on which he would arrive and depart or if it was a one-day trip. Government officials on Monday announced they were ramping up Covid testing measures, as details of Xi’s trip emerged. In mainland China, whole communities are locked down over a handful of cases to execute Xi’s flagship Covid Zero policy.
The South China Morning Post reported earlier Tuesday, citing an unidentified source, that Xi would arrive Thursday via high-speed rail and be escorted from the West Kowloon station via a bulletproof limousine.
Xi will not stay in Hong Kong overnight on Thursday, the report said, instead traveling to Shenzhen after attending a banquet hosted by outgoing Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam at her official residence. He will return to the city on July 1, it added.
(Updates with details throughout.)
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