Hongkongers have expressed surprise at the appearance of China-style decorations across the city, rolled out in anticipation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit on Thursday.
A banner painted in red with the Chinese text “Welcome President Xi Jinping to inspect Hong Kong” has been spotted hanging above the toll stations outside the Western Harbour Tunnel.
Another banner reads: “Hong Kong and China share the same fate. The bauhinia [Hong Kong SAR emblem] and national flag go well together.”
The yellow and red colour on the banners is reminiscent of Chinese propaganda banners that are often seen in factories and rural areas in China.
A Twitter user took a picture of the banners, saying: “DAMN Am I in Hong Kong?”
iMoney magazine said on its Facebook page: “I am still living in Hong Kong…” with hashtags “I am not scared by the illusion” and “President Xi attacks Hong Kong.”
Banners reading “We enthusiastically welcome the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s returning to the mother country” were seen on the wall of shopping mall Olympian City. The text was in simplified Chinese, a writing system used in mainland China.
Many expressed disapproval over the decorations, saying that they were distasteful. “I am disgusted by the combination of yellow and red,” a commenter said.
“What is happening? Am I in mainland China?” wrote another.
Chinese companies such as the Agricultural Bank of China and China Life Insurance put up signs in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Handover on Saturday.
A pro-China group put up a banner saying – in simplified Chinese – “Xi Dada [big daddy Xi], we welcome you!” on a footbridge in Shun Lee Estate, a public housing estate in Kwun Tong.
“Twenty years since the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, I think this is the first time I see such blunt banner messages. I can barely stand them,” said Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union Chief Executive Fung Ka-keung, who took the picture.
Dozens of Chinese and Hong Kong flags have been seen fluttering above Mody Lane in Tsim Sha Tsui East near Victoria Harbour.
Chinese and Hong Kong flag bunting was also spotted on Lamma Island.
The Central and Western District Council has placed a large roadside installation consisting of a bullet train model, a lantern and sailboats. The display said: “Join hands to build the future together. Chinese lanterns light up Hong Kong.”
Journalist Allan Au Ka-lun said: “Only banners singing praises can be shown to the leaders. The leaders are blocked from criticism and angry cries from the people.”
He said his mainland Chinese friend was also surprised by the handover decorations displayed around Hong Kong Island.
“Why are the decorations here so ugly? They are even worse than those in the mainland,” he quoted his friend as saying.
Meanwhile, anonymous posters were distributed across the city in protest of Xi’s visit.
Artwork depicting Xi and Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying kissing were posted in an underpass in Central alongside bilingual signs calling on people to “rise up for real autonomy.”
Another sign cited Article 27 of the Basic Law – which guarantees Hong Kong residents freedom of speech, the press, and assembly – and Article 16 of the Bill of Rights Ordinance, which guarantees people’s right to freedom of opinion and expression.
— Fion Li (@fion_li) June 26, 2017
Street signs and banners celebrating the Handover have also been targeted, with the text “Hong Kong has fallen for 20 years” spray painted on them.
But the artworks may not remain for long, as local media cited sources as saying that police officers have been instructed to crack down on sensitive slogans and images in order to avoid “embarrassing” Xi.
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 attending a number of official events. On Saturday, he will inaugurate Carrie Lam as the SAR’s new chief executive.
Local media reported that Xi will be touring some parts of the city, such as the West Kowloon Cultural District. The police’s escort team was seen rehearsing across the city, sparking public frustration as traffic ground to a temporary halt.
However, details of unofficial events attended by Xi have not been made public. Police will set up security zones at multiple venues, but the media may only be informed two hours before Xi’s arrival.
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.