Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee will travel to Beijing on Wednesday for a duty visit, the first since he took over as the city’s leader in July.

John Lee Presser
Chief Executive John Lee. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday, Lee said he would meet with state leaders and discuss Hong Kong’s “current economic situation, political landscape and actual situation of our control on the pandemic.”

Local media cited sources saying that Lee would likely meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang during the four-day visit.

Lee said he had enjoyed “good dialogue” with the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, the department in Beijing that overseas Hong Kong affairs, so he was “very sure” that the leaders already had a “good understanding of the present situation of Hong Kong.”

“But having an opportunity to report face-to-face and make direct [responses] to questions that may be raised by the leaders will help explain Hong Kong’s situation more thoroughly,” he added.

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Pedestrians on a Hong Kong street. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The last time Lee visited Beijing was in May, when he travelled to the capital to receive his official appointment as Hong Kong’s chief executive after he won the leadership race uncontested.

He was the only candidate in the small-circle race in which only an elite body of 1,461 political figures had a vote. The former police officer was sworn into office by Xi on July 1, which marked the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s transfer from British to Chinese rule.

“Of course, I will be reflecting the concern of Hong Kong people, whose voices are already heard by the Central People’s Government,” Lee added.

According to local media, Lee is set to discuss the reopening of Hong Kong’s border with the mainland after almost three years of Covid-19, as well as the progress of its integration into the Greater Bay Area, Beijing’s project linking cities along the southern Chinese coast.

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Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive John Lee (left) with Chinese leader Xi Jinping (right) on July 1, 2022. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Asked at the press conference whether he would bring up the matter of resuming quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the mainland, Lee said this was a “popular opinion” and that he would “definitely reflect it.”

He added that he had been in communication with leaders in Guangdong province and Shenzhen over the issue.

“If there is anything the SAR government can do to cooperate with the mainland’s anti-epidemic controls… such that there can be new [travel] arrangements, the SAR government would be extremely willing to cooperate.”

Beijing has recently relaxed its zero-Covid policy following widespread protests against strict restrictions. Case loads have declined as a result of reduced testing, but health experts warn of surging infection numbers. In several cities, crematoriums have been overwhelmed.

Lee is expected to return to Hong Kong on Saturday afternoon. Chief Secretary Eric Chan will be acting chief executive during his absence.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.