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29 June 2017

Chinese president makes first ever visit to Hong Kong

Xi JinpingImage copyright
AFP

Xi Jinping is due to arrive in Hong Kong, his first ever visit as Chinese president, as the territory marks the 20th anniversary of the handover from British rule.

His highly symbolic visit comes amid an increasingly tense political climate.

Official celebrations will be taking place, but large demonstrations from rival pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camps are also expected.

Several well-known activists were arrested on the eve of Mr Xi’s arrival.

The group, which included student leader Joshua Wong, had staged a protest at an iconic sculpture symbolising the handover.

The golden sculpture of a bauhinia flower – Hong Kong’s emblem – by the city’s harbour was a gift from China.

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Media captionSeveral high-profile democracy protesters were arrested on Wednesday

Parts of Hong Kong are under a tight security lockdown amid worries of further protests, with several major roads closed and sections of the city centre blocked off from the public.

Thousands of police officers are being deployed across the city and along the route Mr Xi’s motorcade will take when it enters the city.


Read more about Hong Kong since the handover:


Mr Xi is due to give a speech at Hong Kong’s airport when he arrives from Beijing.

A series of official celebrations are planned for this weekend, as well as the inauguration of Hong Kong’s incoming chief executive Carrie Lam.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Some streets were decked out in Chinese and Hong Kong flags ahead of the celebrations

Hong Kong was handed back from the British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing agreed to govern the territory under the principle of “one country, two systems”, granting the city its own legal system, limited democracy with multiple political parties, and rights like freedom of assembly and free speech.

But China’s influence has been met with unease and concerns that the mainland could undermine Hong Kong’s more politically liberal traditions.

Activists have been campaigning for years for Hong Kong to have more political freedom.

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AFP

Image caption

China is keeping a close eye on political movements in Hong Kong

When former president Hu Jintao visited for the 15-year celebrations in 2012, he was met with hundreds of thousands of protesters, marching against what they saw as Beijing’s stifling influence on political reform in the city.

Tensions spilled over into mass protests in the city centre in September 2014, with calls for full democracy and the resignation of then-Chief Executive CY Leung.

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