Security lockdown as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong begins

Roads closed and parts of Wan Chai and Admiralty no-go zones for start of trip to mark handover anniversary and swearing-in of new government

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 12:22am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 10:15am

President Xi Jinping begins his three-day visit to Hong Kong on Thursday under an ­unprecedented security blanket and on a tight schedule that ­includes reaching out to youth and other groups, as well as inaugurating a new government on the 20th ­anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China.

According to state television, he will make a speech on arrival at the airport, ahead of his keynote address at the main ceremony on Saturday.

Roads are closed and parts of Wan Chai and Admiralty are ­no-go zones, while police are taking no chances against the global threat of terrorism with a massive air-land-sea security operation.

Activists stage second protest at handover statue hours before Xi arrives in city

According to force insiders, Xi’s bodyguards will not be ­allowed to carry weapons, under Hong Kong laws. One source said they could seek an exemption from local authorities, but had not done so yet.

On the first day of his packed itinerary, Xi is scheduled to visit the construction site of the West Kowloon Cultural District in the afternoon, where he will oversee the signing of a deal between ­Beijing and the city on setting up the Hong Kong Palace Museum.

“The signing ceremony is ­likely to involve just a small group, with Xi overseeing along with both [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying and [incoming leader] Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor,” a source said.

Xi will then return to his hotel, before heading to Government House to attend a banquet hosted by the chief executive.

In a reflection of the ­importance Beijing places on Hong Kong’s youth development, the president will meet members of the Junior Police Call at its activity centre in Pat Heung on Friday. The group is tasked with fostering communication and links between police and young people.

Xi will meet the youngsters after inspecting troops at the local garrison of the People’s ­Liberation Army at Shek Kong Barracks in Yuen Long.

He will also attend a function at the convention centre in Wan Chai in the afternoon, before a ­variety show at the same venue.

On Saturday, Xi will oversee the swearing-in of Lam and her cabinet at the convention centre and hold a meeting with them afterwards. Before leaving the city by plane that day, he will visit the site of another major ­infrastructure project, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.

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Protests are also in the pipeline. On Wednesday, a handful of pro-democracy activists held a protest at the Golden Bauhinia statue in Wan Chai – a gift from Beijing to mark the 1997 handover – demanding the immediate release of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is now out on medical ­parole with terminal liver cancer.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which holds the annual pro­democracy march on July 1, ­announced it would hold a rally at Wan Chai on Friday evening.

Some 11,000 police will ­protect Xi and first lady Peng Liyuan. They will be deployed at ­different observation posts along the official motorcade route to stop protesters from embarrassing Xi, security sources said.

Police bulletproof cars will ferry the president and his wife to the Renaissance Hong Kong ­Harbour View Hotel in Wan Chai, where security equipment was set up on Wednesday. His delegation will be in the adjacent, more exclusive, Grand Hyatt. Both hotels will be closed to other guests.