Hong Kong kindergarten gears up for visit by Xi’s wife Peng Liyuan ... despite children’s day off

There are no afternoon classes for the preschool on Thursday, but a session was called to welcome China’s first lady

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 2:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 10:20pm

Children at a kindergarten in an upscale neighbourhood in Hong Kong went back to class on their day off on Thursday, as China’s first lady was expected to visit the preschool.

Yau Yat Chuen School in Kowloon Tong is one of the stops during President Xi Jinping and wife Peng Liyuan’s three-day visit in Hong Kong.

The first couple arrived in the city on Thursday.

Ken Auyeung, whose six-year-old daughter attends the kindergarten, said the girl had been practising how to say “welcome” in Putonghua.

He said children in the afternoon session were not supposed to go to school on Thursday, but they were asked to due to Peng’s visit.

According to Auyeung, parents received a school notice last Friday, informing them that a national leader would visit. But the exact identity of the visitor was not specified.

“The impact [of the visit] is not very big,” the father added. “The biggest impact is on the traffic. It’s a bit annoying.”

He said he usually drove his daughter to school, but chose to walk on Thursday due to roads being blocked for the visit.

At about 11am, the sidewalks near the kindergarten had been cordoned off by police. Several plain-clothes officers could be seen around the preschool. Kindergarten staff members declined to comment.

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About 500 police officers were deployed around the kindergarten, according to authorities.

Pink Leung, 60, whose grandson attends morning classes at the kindergarten, said she learned of Peng’s visit from news reports on television.

“I was really surprised,” Leung said.

She said her grandson, who finished school at about noon, would be unlikely to see Peng. “I think it’s fine, I’m not particularly disappointed.”

Other parts of Hong Kong have also been placed under an unprecedented security lockdown amid the leader’s visit.

At the Wan Chai harbourfront, the atmosphere was tense as the city’s police officers were out in force to guard major roads and bridges ahead of the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.

Water barricades measuring two metres in height stretched around parts of Wan Chai, with roads cordoned off near the Renaissance Harbour View hotel and Grand Hyatt hotel where Xi and his delegation will stay.

Adjacent to the hotel, any personnel entering the Hong Kong Convention Exhibition Centre, where celebratory events and ceremonies will take place, will have to walk through full body scanners and metal detectors.

A Hong Kong family hoping to take their son – who lives in America – to the iconic Golden Bauhinia statue outside the exhibition centre had to settle for seeing it from afar. The statue was a gift from the central government to mark the 1997 handover.

“I knew that there would be roads closed off because Xi Jinping was coming, but I only thought that it was just to stop any protests. I didn’t think that it would be on such a big scale,” a woman who declined to be named, told the Post in Wan Chai.

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Only registered journalists are allowed to enter the media zones of relevant events. They have to go through body scans and bag searches, including having their equipment inspected by officers and sniffer dogs. It is understood from sources that police were told to watch out for hidden banners that people may be carrying.

At a plaza nearby, loud Chinese music blared from speakers and a group of performers danced to celebrate Xi’s visit.

“I love China! I love Hong Kong! Let’s warmly welcome Chinese president Xi Jinping!” one singer dressed in a bright red qipao – a traditional Chinese dress for women – said before belting out a song in Putonghua.

More than 100 police officers patrolled the area around the West Kowloon Cultural District. Xi will visit the arts hub to oversee the signing of a deal between the two governments on the setting up of Hong Kong’s version of the Palace Museum.

Notices on the gate to the arts hub said the area was closed from Wednesday to Thursday for a “private event”.

A helicopter was seen conducting an aerial survey of the hub after Xi landed at the airport.

Banners were also hung on the footbridge at the West Harbour Crossing to welcome the president.