President Xi Jinping no stranger to Hong Kong following trade trips
Leader visited city when he held posts in Fujian and Zhejiang, then as vice-president in 2008
It has been nine years since President Xi Jinping made an official visit to Hong Kong.
During his last tour in July 2008, then vice-president Xi opted not to arrive by plane but came and left by car through the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint. He had just visited Guangdong, but the choice of route was seen as a way to say Hong Kong was truly connected to the mainland.
A key highlight of his visit then was to inspect the city’s preparations for the equestrian events that Hong Kong was to host as part of the Beijing Olympics. He also toured the Hong Kong Sports Institute in Sha Tin and gave a pep talk to athletes, including table tennis player Ko Lai-chak, who said Xi “seemed nice”.
Xi gave a speech at a welcome banquet in which he praised Hongkongers for overcoming tough times, promised greater access for the city’s services sector on the mainland and backed its economic development. He also said “time has already and will continue to prove that the ‘one country, two systems’ principle is completely right ... It has a strong life.”
Pan-democrats also attended the banquet and tried to hand a petition to him seeking a meeting with central government officials. Lawmaker Joseph Lee Kok-long said “it was not a pleasant experience” trying to push their petition past a protective barrier of local police.
Their meeting finally took place last year when several pan-democrats met visiting National People’s Congress head Zhang Dejiang.
Well before his official visit in 2008, Xi had already visited Hong Kong several times. In 1992, when he was party secretary of Fuzhou, he came to promote trade, looking to foreign firms for infrastructure development.
Xi again visited Hong Kong in 2000 as Fujian governor. In 2005, when he was party secretary of Zhejiang, he led a delegation to the city to promote closer trade ties.
One of Xi’s legacies in his years as Fujian governor was his success in attracting overseas capital to Fuzhou. One of the projects saw Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing taking part in the renovation of the “three lanes and seven alleys”, a historic residential area dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties.
In this week’s visit to Hong Kong, all eyes will be on Xi at the swearing-in ceremony for chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her cabinet.
Observers and politicians will also be seeking any clues about the latest central government thinking on Hong Kong.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said: “We do not know if there will be any chance for the president to meet legislators. But we shall try our best to find a feasible way to convey our views on Hong Kong’s democratisation to Xi.”
Starry Lee Wai-king of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said she hoped the opposition camp would not resort to antics that could be seen as disrespectful of “one country, two systems”.