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President Xi Jinping is leaving mainland China for the first time since the pandemic began—traveling to Hong Kong to mark 25 years of Chinese rule

June 28, 2022, 9:21 AM UTC
China President Xi Jinping will mark 25 years of Chinese rule in Hong Kong, despite rising COVID cases.
Ju Peng—Xinhua/Getty Images

Hong Kong confirmed President Xi Jinping will visit the city this week, ending speculation over the Chinese leader’s attendance of the 25th handover anniversary celebrations on July 1 amid surging COVID cases in the former British colony.

Roads and some public transport facilities, such as MTR stations, would be closed “when our president visits Hong Kong,” to strengthen security measures, the police said at a press briefing Tuesday.

The trip will be Xi’s first outside mainland China since January 2020, after his COVID Zero policy closed the country’s borders and limited him to virtual attendance of international events. His decision to visit Hong Kong even as it recorded nearly 2,000 new COVID cases in recent days signals his determination to stamp Beijing’s mark of control on the former British colony that was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. 

Hong Kong announced Monday it would step up its COVID-19 testing program and advised against large family gatherings, as the city prepared for the Chinese leader’s visit.

Xi will begin his trip to Hong Kong on June 30 before the 25-year celebrations on July 1, the South China Morning Post reported. Thousands of police officers will descend on the West Kowloon high-speed rail terminus and a no-fly zone will be installed above the hub, where Xi and mainland officials are due to arrive from Shenzhen, the newspaper said. Xi won’t stay overnight in Hong Kong, according to the report.

He will attend a banquet hosted by outgoing Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam at her official residence on Thursday, according to the Post.

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