The Hong Kong government is silent over whether China’s Xi Jinping will visit the city in person on July 1, referring only to an earlier statement from state-run media saying he will “attend” the city’s Handover anniversary events.

Xi Jinping at the Hong Kong Airport in 2017. Photo: GovHK.

HKFP called the Information Services Department three times over the weekend after three emailed enquires went unanswered amid speculation that Xi may only join via video link.

On Saturday, Reuters, CNN, The Guardian, CNA and HKFP were among the outlets reporting on the Chinese leader’s planned visit, whilst the Financial Times noted it would be his first trip outside of the mainland since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Xinhua article said: “President Xi Jinping will attend a meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland,” adding that he will “also attend the inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”

There was no mention of Xi potentially joining virtually to inaugurate Chief Executive-elect John Lee. In 2017, ahead of Xi’s last visit, Xinhua stated that the leader “will be in Hong Kong.”

There have been several reported cases of Covid-19 among top officials in the city, including incoming chief secretary Eric Chan, and incumbent Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang. Director of Marine Carol Yuen is also undergoing quarantine after being identified as a close contact of an infected person.

Barricades have been erected around Wanchai’s exhibition centre, where the July 1 leadership inauguration will take place. Photo: Supplied.

There have been rumours that Xi would not visit because of the outbreak. Top government officials, journalists and some school pupils were also reportedly asked to undergo a quarantine period as part of a “closed-loop” arrangement ahead of July 1.

High security, media restrictions

Meanwhile, water-filled barriers appeared over the weekend around Wan Chai Exhibition Centre, where the inauguration is set to take place.

Barricades have been erected around Wanchai’s exhibition centre, where the July 1 leadership inauguration will take place. Photo: Supplied.

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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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.