President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong for 20th anniversary of handover confirmed – details of his packed itinerary revealed

Visits to People’s Liberation Army garrison and high-profile infrastructure project, such as Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge or high speed rail link terminus, will be included on Chinese leader’s tour of city

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 11:27am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 12:51pm

It’s confirmed. Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong for the first time since becoming president in 2013 to join the 20th anniversary marking the handover and has a packed itinerary that includes touring the People’s Liberation Army garrison and a high-profile infrastructure project, the Post has learned.

Sources with knowledge of his three-day trip told the Post that his tight schedule would mean little to no time to visit a local family or neighbourhood as his predecessors did in the past.

But wife and first lady Peng Liyuan, who will accompany the president during his tour from Thursday to Saturday next week, will meet residents of an elderly home on Friday.

Shortly after his visit, China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, will sail into Hong Kong next month also as part of the handover celebrations. The date of its arrival has not been finalised but it would mark the first time it will be opened to the public. The vessel was built using the hull of an unfinished Soviet carrier, the Varyag, which China acquired in 2002. The carrier was commissioned in 2012.

Xi is expected to inspect one of the two controversial infrastructure projects under construction – either the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge or the high speed rail link to Guangzhou.

The visit has been shrouded in secrecy for security reasons and sources said the invitation had been extended to the president along with details of the programme. The source added that from the Hong Kong side, there had been no other word that the visit would not proceed as planned.

The city will be placed under a massive security blanket for Xi given the threat of global terrorism.

According to the itinerary – to be finalised by the Hong Kong government and Beijing’s liaison office in the city – the president and his wife will land at Hong Kong International Airport next Thursday before heading to the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Wan Chai, where they will stay.

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“For security reasons, hotel rooms in several floors will be vacated and people will have to receive a security check before being allowed to enter the hotel,” a security source said. Its adjacent hotel – Renaissance Harbour View Hotel is understood to be a fallback for the state leader to stay in.

Xi is scheduled to attend a banquet hosted by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying that same evening at Government House in Central.

The next day, the president will review the local garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in the morning. He will attend a function at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai in the afternoon and a variety show at the same venue in the evening.

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On July 1, he will oversee the swearing-in of the new chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her cabinet at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. Before leaving the city by plane that day, he will visit the construction site of one of the city’s two on-going infrastructure projects.

It is unclear whether he will be on the site to see construction work and meet workers or he will view the site from an observation post.

The multibillion-dollar bridge project was recently hit by scandal after the city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption arrested 21 employees of a government-appointed laboratory contractor Jacobs China on suspicion that they had falsified concrete test results.

The high speed rail link project is also plagued by the problem of the co-location arrangement of customs, immigration and quarantine facilities at the West Kowloon terminus still under discussion between Hong Kong and mainland authorities.

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During Xi’s three-day visit, more than a third of the 29,000-strong police force is expected to be deployed round the clock.

The day before the arrival of the president, divers from the force’s elite Special Duties Unit, also known as “Flying Tigers”, will enter the waters and carry out an underwater security check outside the Wan Chai waterfront.

Hong Kong police will have contingency measures in place that include ferry visiting state leaders across the Victoria Harbour if land routes are blocked as well as an alternative hotel for them to stay in Hung Hom.