Chinese leader Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong on July 1 to mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s Handover from Britain to China, state media revealed on Saturday.

Xi Jinping in Hong Kong in 2017. File photo: GovHK.

Xi will also swear-in Hong Kong’s new administration led by former chief secretary and security minister John Lee. In a statement on Saturday, he said: “Hong Kong is at the crucial stage of advancing from chaos to governance, and gradually towards prosperity… I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to President Xi for his caring and support for Hong Kong.”

See also: Hong Kong bars multiple media outlets from inauguration of John Lee

Incumbent leader Carrie Lam also welcomed the news in a press release on Saturday: “Over the past five years, with President Xi’s warm regards and the Central Authorities’ full support, the HKSAR has been steadfastly implementing the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle… [Xi’s visit] fully shows the importance that the Central Authorities attach to and their support for Hong Kong, for which I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude on behalf of the HKSAR.”

Covid uncertainty

It is a tradition for state officials to visit Hong Kong on the Handover anniversary – Xi last visited to inaugurate Lam in 2017. However, this year’s plan was marred with uncertainty, partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Hong Kong began to see a rising trend of local infections in June, after cases ebbed in April and May following the city’s deadliest wave of the virus. During the fifth wave, more than 1 million residents were infected and over 9,000 died. 

There have been rumours that Xi would not visit because of the outbreak, as he has not left China since the outbreak began. However, there were also reports indicating that hotels near the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where celebrations are usually held, were fully booked by the government.

Top government officials and some school pupils were also said to be asked to undergo a quarantine period as part of a “closed-loop” arrangement ahead of Xi’s journey.

The announcement of Xi’s visit came two days after Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang and Director of the Chief Executive’s Office Eric Chan tested positive for Covid-19.

Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect John Lee (left) meets Chinese leader Xi Jinping on May 30, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

At least 10 media outlets, including HKFP, were effectively barred from covering Lee’s inauguration as they did not receive an invite to the event.

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Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.