To Come or Not to Come to HK: Uncertainty over Xi Jinping’s attendance and Covid-19 outbreaks cast clouds over handover celebrations

There is still a lot of uncertainty over whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will be coming to Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
There is still a lot of uncertainty over whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will be coming to Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

With just four days to go before the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to Chinese rule, there is still a lot of uncertainty over whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will be coming to the city amid a growing number of Covid-19 outbreaks. 

China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday that Xi “will attend a meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland.”

However, it did not state explicitly that the Chinese leader will visit the city, which it did five years ago when Xi came to Hong Kong from June 29 to July 1 for Hong Kong’s 20th anniversary and incumbent Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s inauguration.

The Hong Kong government has also not yet clarified whether he will be attending the celebrations in person. 

Speaking on a Commercial Radio program on Monday, Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole deputy to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said he would not assess or speculate on the chances of Xi visiting Hong Kong in person on July 1, the day Chief Executive-elect John Lee takes office.

Tam said he believed that the details, including the specific itinerary and whether Xi will stay overnight in Hong Kong, will be officially announced in two or three days.

Meanwhile, Ip Kwok-him, a deputy to the National People’s Congress, said on an RTHK program on Monday that he believed Xi would very likely come to Hong Kong to participate in the celebrations. 

But if the city sees a sudden surge in Covid-19 infections, he said it is likely Xi would deliver his speech online. 

Ip also said the Chinese leader would only stay in Hong Kong for a short period. 

“The itinerary will not be like five years ago… when [Xi was here] for such a long period,” he said. 

He added that many handover celebration activities have been canceled. 

Ip also said that if Xi does not come in person, he believed there would be other officials coming to officiate the swearing-in. 

The pro-government Sing Tao Daily reported on Monday that Xi would come to the city on June 30 and July 1, but would not stay overnight in Hong Kong and return to Shenzhen instead. 

A Chinese president has inaugurated every Hong Kong chief executive since the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997. 

Two senior officials’ test results turn negative

Separately, Chief Secretary-designate Eric Chan told the media both he and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang had tested negative via rapid antigen testing (RAT). 

Chan also said he did not have any symptoms anymore. 

The government announced last Thursday that Chan, who is currently the director of the Chief Executive’s Office, and Tsang tested positive for Covid-19 via PCR testing

According to current guidelines, if they both test negative via ​​​​RAT this Wednesday and Thursday, they can end their isolation. 

However, it is unclear whether stricter rules will be in place for the officials due to the handover events. 

According to invitations received by lawmakers and politicians attending the official handover ceremony, a guest cannot attend the event if his or her family members or drivers has a positive PCR or RAT result or if they exhibit any symptoms between now and July 1.

The government has also implemented strict measures on participants, including requesting them to only travel directly between their place of residence and workplaces from now to June 29 and isolate themselves in a hotel room on June 30.

Chan said the government would make the final decision on whether the pair can attend the swearing-in ceremony. 

Hong Kong has been recording close to 2,000 daily coronavirus cases recently.

Gloomy weather

Meanwhile, poor weather is expected in the city during the handover celebration period. 

Screengrab of the Hong Kong Observatory’s weather forecast for the next nine days

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, a broad area of low pressure over the central part of the South China Sea is expected to develop into a tropical cyclone gradually midweek this week and its intensity and movement remain uncertain. 

“But under the influence of its associated outer rainbands, the weather over the northern part of the South China Sea and the coast of southern China will deteriorate gradually in the latter part of this week, winds will strengthen gradually and there will be squally showers and thunderstorms,” its website reads. 

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