Handover anniversary: ​​Hong Kong on alert ahead of Xi Jinping's visit

Handover anniversary: ​​Hong Kong on high alert ahead of Xi Jinping's visit

UPGRADE DAY

A massive security effort was deployed in Hong Kong on Thursday ahead of the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping for celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the city's handover to China communist. 

Government leaders were forced into a closed-loop system, parts of the city were sealed off and many journalists were barred from Friday's events, illustrating the Communist Party's control over the city after a wave of political repression that dismantled the democratic movement and crushed dissent. 

Details of the trip, Xi's first outside mainland China since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, have been kept under wraps, but he is expected to make appearances in Hong Kong on Thursday and Friday.

< p>The Chinese leader, however, is likely to spend the night in the nearby mainland city of Shenzhen, according to local media. 

People who will be in Xi's orbit during his trip, including top government officials, have been told to limit contact, undergo daily PCR tests and spend the days leading up to the visit in a quarantine hotel. 

“As a safety measure, if we need to meet the Supreme Leader and other leaders up close, I think it is worth making closed-circuit arrangements” , pro-Beijing politician Regina Ip told AFP.

Authorities have taken steps to eliminate any potential sources of embarrassment during Xi Jinping's stay in the city, and national security police arrested at least nine people last week.

The League of the Social Democrats, one of Hong Kong's last remaining opposition groups, said it would not protest on July 1, after an exchange between national security officers and volunteers associated with the group. < /p>

And Hong Kong's leading pollster said it would delay releasing the results of a government popularity survey “in response to suggestions from relevant government departments after their risk assessment”.

The anniversary of the handover has long been the occasion for large peaceful protests on city streets, but under the combined effect of health restrictions and a crackdown on dissent, mass gatherings have all but disappeared in Hong Kong in recent years.

“Security Reasons”

Media coverage of Xi Jinping's visit was strictly limited. On Wednesday, AFP confirmed that 13 local and international journalists had been denied accreditation to cover the handover celebrations. 

Two AFP journalists were among those whose Accreditation was refused, a government official citing unspecified “security reasons”. A third AFP reporter was later granted accreditation. 

The Hong Kong Journalists Association expressed “deep regret” at the denials.

The government told the media that the decision was “a balance, as far as possible, between the needs of media work and security requirements”. 

Some sites in the financial center have also were closed, including the bullet train terminus, a Chinese opera performance venue and the Hong Kong Science Park. 

A number of science park staff told AFP that they had not received any notification about the visit of the Chinese president, but that they had been asked to work from home on Thursday. 

Authorities have also sought to give an image of public support, including the mass unfurling of Hong Kong and Chinese flags in dozens of housing estates.

“It's unnecessary and it's too much,” Chan told AFP. , 26, who lives in one of these social housing units where small flags have been placed on each floor in one of the stairwells .