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Xi in HK

In a brief speech upon his arrival, the Chinese president sought to strike a positive note about what he described as the city’s brighter future.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

President Xi Jinping is in Hong Kong on the 25th anniversary of Britain’s handover of the territory to China. Primarily, therefore, the Chinese President’s visit is aimed at reinforcing his authority over the city, which was roiled for the past several years by what can perhaps aptly be called a people’s movement for the restoration of democracy. That upheaval, after it had raged for a few months and drawn in many residents, was put down brutally by the mainland and its representatives. Mr Xi’s decision to visit Hong Kong despite the recent surge in Covid infections in the city underscores the inherent importance of flaunting his control over what was till 1997 a British colony.

This is the Chinese President’s first visit to Hong Kong after pro-democracy protesters mounted a serious challenge to the control of the mainland in 2019. Mr Xi enforced a sweeping crackdown on dissent, with the arrest of thousands of people, including leading Opposition figures, lawmakers, academics, newspaper editors, and a retired Catholic bishop. The crackdown transformed the city beyond recognition. With the territory brought to its knees, Mr Xi clearly feels the time is right to preen. In a brief speech upon his arrival, the Chinese president sought to strike a positive note about what he described as the city’s brighter future.

He did sound a mite rhetorical ~ “Hong Kong has withstood one severe challenge after another and overcome one hazard after another. After the storm, Hong Kong has been reborn from the ashes, showing flourishing vitality.” Mr Xi has not left China in 29 months. His absence from international engagements has been increasingly conspicuous, most particularly in view of the high-voltage diplomacy in response to the war in Ukraine and its political, military, and economic fallout. Last December he established contact with the Group of 20 via video link. He had sent a message to the climate conference in Glasgow in November.

If he has kept himself rather aloof, it is largely because the government in Beijing is riveted to protecting his health, ahead of the critical Communist Party conference later this year when he is expected to claim another five years as China’s leader. But for Mr Xi, taking what they call a victory lap in Hong Kong is crucial to asserting his vision of national rejuvenation, in which the party posits China to what he regards as its rightful place as a global power.

Although he has not been away from mainland China since early 2020, Mr Xi imagines that in terms of both prestige and popularity, it would be good for him to visit the territory, even if it is for a few hours. Local newspaper reports stated that Mr Xi would not stay in Hong Kong overnight and would instead travel back to the bordering Chinese city of Shenzhen, before returning the next day for festivities. He has signalled his control over HK. The transfer of power is now complete, and the one countrytwo systems template has been abandoned in all but name.