Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming Macau visit sparks tightened security as Hong Kong reporters refused entry and man detained

Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the former Portuguese colony’s return to Chinese control

Joanne Ma |

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The former colony is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its handover to China this week.

President Xi Jinping is set to visit Macau tomorrow until Friday to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover to China.

The former Portuguese colony is connected to Hong Kong and its neighbouring city of Zhuhai, in Guangdong province, by the world’s longest sea crossing bridge, the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge (HZMB).

Part of the bridge that links up Hong Kong and Macau falls under Chinese jurisdiction.

Security is expected to be tightened when Xi visits Macau, in response to the violent clashes in Hong Kong over the past six months, which Beijing has repeatedly blamed on the protesters.

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Regarding the recent incident of a Hong Kong man who was stopped on the HZMB and subsequently taken to the mainland, Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung told the press today that the inspection by the Chinese Public Security at the Boundary Crossing Facilities was perfectly justified and legal, as it occurred within mainland jurisdiction.

Cheung’s statement came after Zhuhai’s Public Security Bureau confirmed on Monday that a 53-year-old suspect from Hong Kong, surnamed Chung, was apprehended while travelling to Macau. Zhuhai police said Chung was wanted for his alleged involvement in cross-border phone smuggling.

Meanwhile on Monday, a journalist was denied entry to Macau to cover the 20th anniversary of its handover.

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Jack Tsang, a reporter from Hong Kong’s Now TV News, was heading to Macau by coach over the HZMB on Monday when he was stopped and questioned at a new checkpoint manned by officials from the mainland, the broadcaster reported.

The reporter was held for more than two hours and told he could not enter the city “for the next few days”, according to an account published on the news company’s website.

A photographer from the same media outlet who was travelling with the reporter was allowed to enter the city. Both journalists had registered with the Macau authorities in advance, the television network said.

Today, SCMP reporter Phila Siu was also denied entry on the grounds he might pose a security threat. He was put on a ferry back to Hong Kong after being questioned for three hours. 

Editor-in-chief Tammy Tam expressed deep concern and disappointment over Siu’s deportation.

“It’s extremely regrettable that Phila was treated with such suspicion, and it’s unthinkable that he – or any other journalist from the Post – would pose any kind of security threat to any jurisdiction,” she said. “I’m also very puzzled as to why he would be dealt with in this manner and denied entry. It makes no sense.”

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Armed police in Zhuhai held a massive anti-terror drill at its end of the HKZMB on November 29, as part of its preparations for the 20th anniversary.

More than 1,000 police officers and 80 vehicles were involved in the exercise, amid ongoing political turmoil in Hong Kong, according to news portal Southcn.com.

Photos circulated online showed officers in body armour, helmets and shields firing tear gas as they confronted a group of people carrying sticks and wearing black shirts and yellow helmets – attire associated with the protesters in Hong Kong, 60km away from Macau.

Editor-in-chief Tammy Tam expressed deep concern and disappointment over Siu’s deportation.

“It’s extremely regrettable that Phila was treated with such suspicion, and it’s unthinkable that he – or any other journalist from the Post – would pose any kind of security threat to any jurisdiction,” she said. “I’m also very puzzled as to why he would be dealt with in this manner and denied entry. It makes no sense.”