Some lawmakers invited to Hong Kong’s 25th anniversary Handover celebrations, which Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to attend, have complained that the arrangements – which include checking into hotels beforehand to minimise Covid-19 risks – were disorganised and last-minute.

handover anniversary banner
A slogan heralding the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s Handover by property giant Henderson Land Development in Central. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Speaking on an RTHK program on Thursday morning, lawmaker Kingsley Wong said some members of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, the pro-Beijing party which he chairs, only received their invitations on Monday.

The delay means they would not be able to attend since they have missed the “closed-loop” arrangements” that require guests to minimise public activities and check into hotels ahead of time, he added.

“There is some chaos and areas where [the arrangements] are not quite smooth,” Wong said.

Lawmaker Edward Leung said on the same radio show that one of his colleagues invited to the celebrations had been asked to take part in “closed-loop” arrangements, including taking daily Covid-19 tests, but had only just received instructions about checking into a hotel that morning.

DAB's LegCo hopeful, Edward Leung Hei
Lawmaker Edward Leung Hei. Photo: Edward Leung via Facebook.

“[My colleague] thought they had been forgotten about,” Leung said.

Hong Kong will mark its 25th Handover anniversary of its return to China on Friday. Incoming chief executive John Lee – who won the small-circle election in May as the only candidate – will be inaugurated as the city’s next leader the same day.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to visit Hong Kong on Thursday and Friday but will reportedly not stay in the city overnight, taking the high speed railway to neighbouring Shenzhen for the night instead.

Lawmakers, top political figures and other attendees have been subject to strict arrangements, including daily Covid-19 tests and hotel stays. Chief Executive Carrie Lam was spotted on Monday checking into the Grand Hyatt Hotel, adjacent to the Convention and Exhibition Centre where events will be held.

25th handover anniversary billboard
A billboard outside the Central Police Station heralding Hong Kong’s 25th Handover anniversary. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

In the last week, attendees were asked to only move “point to point,” between their homes and their office, for example.

The government has restricted media outlets’ coverage of the Handover events, with journalists from at least seven local and international media organisations that were initially invited to report on the events barred for “security reasons.”

Security deployment

Police have begun sealing off roads ahead of Xi’s expected visit, with ramped up security outside the convention centre in Wan Chai and West Kowloon Station, where Xi will reportedly arrive via high-speed rail.

Police will provide a motorcade escort and personal protection for Xi. The force was “duty-bound” to ensure the Chinese leader’s personal safety and security, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Operations, Lui Kam-ho said on Tuesday.

Police officers West Kowloon Station
Police officers outside the West Kowloon Station on June 28, 2022. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

RTHK reported that around 100 police officers were seen being briefed outside the West Kowloon Station on Thursday morning. Some were also stationed on nearby footbridges.

A welcome ceremony will be held at the station at 2:30 p.m., RTHK reported, citing state-run media.

According to Sing Tao, a dinner banquet planned for Thursday night at Government House – the official residence of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose term ends on July 1 – was cancelled due to Covid-19.

A Hong Kong government statement released at noon on Thursday said only that Lee and senior government officials would attend a flag-raising ceremony to celebrate Hong Kong’s 25th Handover anniversary on Friday. It did not mention Xi.

handover anniversary banner west kowloon workers
Workers trim shrubs near West Kowloon Station, as a banner welcoming Chinese president Xi Jinping’s appearance at Hong Kong’s 25th Handover anniversary celebrations hangs on a street barricade. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

The daily flag-raising ceremony, which is normally open to the public, will be closed off on Friday.

Hong Kong is currently experiencing stormy weather, with the typhoon signal number 1 in force. The Hong Kong Observatory said it would consider raising the signal to number 3 on Thursday night.

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Hillary Leung is a journalist at Hong Kong Free Press, where she reports on local politics and social issues, and assists with editing. Since joining in late 2021, she has covered the Covid-19 pandemic, political court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial, and challenges faced by minority communities.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hillary completed her undergraduate degree in journalism and sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She worked at TIME Magazine in 2019, where she wrote about Asia and overnight US news before turning her focus to the protests that began that summer. At Coconuts Hong Kong, she covered general news and wrote features, including about a Black Lives Matter march that drew controversy amid the local pro-democracy movement and two sisters who were born to a domestic worker and lived undocumented for 30 years in Hong Kong.