Xi Jinping, China's president, arrived in Hong Kong on Thursday under tight security and a bubble against covid. He is there to commemorate the 25th anniversary his return by the United Kingdom. It was believed that the British colony would democratically reform the Communist Party regime. This was a result of its liberal tradition.
The situation is not the same as it was twenty-five years ago. Beijing's regime has become more authoritarian since Xi Jinping took office. It has also decimated the freedoms enjoyed in Hong Kong, which were higher than those in China. This is evident by the many politicians on the democratic side currently in jail, including Joshua Wong and Benny Tai. Also, the closing of media outlets like the Apple newspaper and the dismantling civil and political groups due to the National Security Law's harshness. This law, which was imposed by Beijing two years ago, criminalizes almost all political opposition. Because the demands for democracy or universal suffrage are considered attempts to secession and subversion, these crimes can lead to between three and five years imprisonment.
As the Tiananmen massacre vigils are no more held, there will not be a mass protest on July 1, this year, to commemorate the transfer of sovereignty, and the unfulfilled promise of universal vote, which Beijing has committed under the Basic Law of Hong Kong, according to the principles of "one nation, two systems" (high level of autonomy) Both should have been in force theoretically until 2047 under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984. However, they were left behind after the entry in force of the National Security Law as well as the new Electoral Law. The law, which was enacted last year, strengthens Beijing's control of Hong Kong's chief executive officer and local Parliament. It also vetoes politicians who claim democracy because they lack "patriotism".
The Chinese regime has taken down the democratic movement that was responsible for the violent and massive demonstrations in the second half 2019. It argues that the control and stability of both has brought order to the chaos created by the protests. The Police have placed restrictions on the passage of the official delegation, banned drone flight and searched the homes of democratic activists to prevent any incidents.
After arriving at West Kowloon Station by train from China, Xi Jinping made a short speech. A small crowd waited for him at West Kowloon Station, waving national flags and pompoms to the beat of the Police band's 'Welcome March. Xi did not mention the coronavirus pandemic or democratic protests. He assured that Hong Kong had gone through many difficulties. This shows the strength and vitality of Hong Kong's principle of 'one nation, two systems'. It is strong and ensures the well-being and security of the village.
Xi arrived in Beijing with his wife Peng Liyuan and was greeted by Chief Executive Carrie Lam. She will be replaced tomorrow by John Lee, a former cop. Lee, the only candidate, was elected in May by the proBeijing electoral board with 99.4%. Lee will be sworn-in this Friday, before Xi Jinping. His assistants had to stay in quarantine for a week. Two high-ranking officials from the local government, Eric Chan, Chief Secretary, and Erick Tsang (person in charge of relations to China), were both infected with covid last Monday. They will not be attending the ceremony despite having recovered on Monday.
This Thursday, President Xi will meet with 240 representatives from Hong Kong society including businessmen, religious leaders and rectors. He will not spend the night in the city. He will leave the city tomorrow to return to Shenzhen in mainland China for the 25th anniversary celebrations. This is a very different agenda than his 2017 visit, where he attended 20 events and presided over a military parade that included 3,000 soldiers at Yuen Long's People's Liberation Army barracks.
Xi is especially cautious about the coronavirus as this marks the first time Xi has left China since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020. It was only to visit Hong Kong's special administrative zone, and not to travel overseas. This is a very different situation than five years ago, and more importantly, it's not the same as 1997 when the West believed in the democraticization of China's regime. This 25th anniversary coincides in Madrid with NATO Summit, which includes China as a "systemic rival" that "challenges and undermines our interests, security, and values."