Hu Jintao

Hu to face growing anger on HK visit

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 June, 2012, 12:00am


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President Hu Jintao will find a very different city from the one he last visited five years ago when he arrives on Friday to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the handover.

During the visit he is expected to announce a string of initiatives designed to boost Hong Kong's economy. But commentators and activists said his presence was likely to magnify public anger over controversies here and on the mainland, including the scandal over the death of dissident Li Wangyang .

Xinhua announced yesterday that Hu would arrive on Friday 'to attend the ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland'. The event will also mark the inauguration and swearing-in of the fourth post-handover Hong Kong government.

Before he leaves on Sunday, Hu is also expected to announce measures to expand the city's yuan business and financial services. He was last here for the 10th anniversary of the handover,

Sunday also sees the annual protest rally organised by the Civil Human Rights Front. The organisation expects at least 50,000 people to join the march but hopes to beat last year's figure of 218,000 following the recent outrage over the suspicious death of Tiananmen activist Li and the discovery of illegal structures at the home of the incoming chief executive, Leung Chun-ying.

Mak Tak-ching, who is in charge of the protest arrangements, said police had for the first time agreed to open all lanes of the westbound roads along the protest route, from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, starting at 3pm, to the new government complex in Tamar.

Starry Lee Wai-king, vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), vowed to express Hongkongers' views on Li's death and other issues if she got the chance to meet Hu. 'We will reflect Hongkongers' worries genuinely,' she said.

Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu believed Hu's visit would be overshadowed by social unrest. He also believed that the controversies made for an awkward situation between Hu and Leung.

'On the one hand, Beijing refuses to handle Li's death in a way that would be seen as being submissive to the public, which stimulates more demonstrators, which Leung does not want to see.

'But Leung, too, has overridden public opinion by launching a failed attempt to give priority to his government revamp plan in the Legislative Council, as well as having illegal structures at his home. So many locals are expected to take to the streets, embarrassing Beijing.'

Yesterday, the incoming and outgoing chief executives, Leung and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, both expressed gratitude for Hu's visit.

Meanwhile, a DAB tracking survey revealed local people's most pressing concerns had shifted in the last three months from mainland mothers giving birth here and improving healthcare to sky-high property prices and rents and the bad environment.