Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in Hong Kong for a three-day visit. He landed at noon on Thursday and will be attending celebrations for the the 20th anniversary of the Handover. He will also tour the city and inaugurate the city’s next leader, Carrie Lam, on Saturday.

It is Xi’s first visit to the city as president, since he took the position in 2013.

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Xi Jinping at the Hong Kong Airport. Photo: GovHK.

“Today’s weather is quite hot, thank you for your hard work… Please give my warmest regards and best wishes to Hong Kong people,” he said upon his arrival.

“After nine years, I am happy to step on Hong Kong land again,” he said. Xi said Hong Kong had always touched his heart. “In two days, it will be the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland. This is a big event, a celebratory event for the country and Hong Kong.”

See also: HK20: Celebrations & demonstrations – a guide to Hong Kong Handover events

Xi said he has three goals for the trip: To give his blessing, express support and plan the future for Hong Kong.

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Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan at the Hong Kong Airport. Photo: GovHK.

“[I give] my warm congratulations to the great achievements over the 20 years since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region… [I give my] heartfelt blessing that Hong Kong will achieve new success.”

“For 20 years, the central government has given Hong Kong its strong backing. The central government will always support Hong Kong’s development and improve livelihoods,” Xi said.

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CY Leung greeted Xi Jinping at the Hong Kong Airport. Photo: GovHK.

“We will review the extraordinary journey of Hong Kong over the past 20 years across all sectors, summarise the experience and plan for the future, to ensure ‘One Country, Two Systems’ will be stable and everlasting.”

Xi will also meet the outgoing Leung Chun-ying administration and enjoy a dinner at home with the Leung family.

See also: Badiucao Cartoon: ‘Wish Xi a Happy Ride’

“I believe the confidence in developing and building Hong Kong will increase through the series of events in Hong Kong,” he said.

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Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan at the Hong Kong Airport. Photo: GovHK.

He will also be visiting several locations such as the West Kowloon Cultural District, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge and the People’s Liberation Army barracks in Shek Kong. Celebration events have been prepared for him, such as a banquet, though most pro-democracy lawmakers were not invited.

Sophie Richardson, China director at NGO Human Rights Watch, called for Xi to uphold Hong Kong’s autonomy: “Fears of a militarized Chinese encroachment on Hong Kong have not materialized, but that doesn’t mean key human rights aren’t at serious risk in the territory… Carrie Lam and other Hong Kong political leaders must use their position and power to resist Beijing’s pressure on the legal system, the press, and diverse political views – while they still can,” she said.

Security measures 

The Hong Kong government has stepped up security measures ahead of the official visit, citing terrorist threats. Giant barriers have appeared around Wan Chai, where Xi will be staying and inaugurating Lam as the new chief executive.

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Central Plaza. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

On the eve of Xi’s arrival, over two dozen pro-democracy activists scaled Wan Chai’s symbolic Golden Bauhinia statue in protest. They were arrested several hours later, and have not yet been released.

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Avery Ng protesting on the Golden Bauhinia. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

On Tuesday, police warned that they will evict journalists from Handover venues for any actions unrelated to reporting. Digital media outlets remain barred from covering the celebrations and inauguration.

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Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.