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It is the Chinese president’s first known trip outside of mainland China since the coronavirus pandemic began. He is set to attend the inauguration of the next Hong Kong administration.

Xi's last visit to the former British colony was in 2017 to swear in outgoing city leader Carrie Lam

© Ju Peng/Xinhua/AP Photo/picture allianceXi’s last visit to the former British colony was in 2017 to swear in outgoing city leader Carrie Lam

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to visit Hong Kong for a ceremony celebrating 25 years of the city’s handover to China, state media reported on Saturday.

“President Xi Jinping will attend a meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The city was handed over to China on July 1, 1997, after 156 years of British colonial rule.

He will also attend the inauguration of the next Hong Kong administration of Chief Executive John Lee. The Beijing-anointed leader and his ministers will be sworn in on July 1

Xi’s last visit to the former British colony was in 2017 to swear in outgoing city leader Carrie Lam.

The Chinese president has avoided travel outside of mainland China since he visited Myanmar in January 2020, shortly before acknowledging the severity of COVID and imposing lockdowns.

Hong Kong crackdown

The anniversary celebrations follow turbulent months as the global financial hub was roiled by mass pro-democracy protests.

Political tension also inflamed in one of the most densely populated places in the world as people struggled with soaring living costs.

In a stringent crackdown to crush the sometimes-violent protestsactivists were arrested and sentenced to prison, and Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy newspaper shut down.

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The city also sentenced Hong Kong’s 90-year-old former Roman Catholic bishop, Joseph Zen, to prison.

These actions were aided by a sweeping security lawthat criminalized dissent.

The crackdown added to the tension between Beijing and the United States, Europe, Japan and other Asian governments.

COVID concerns

Earlier, coronavirus outbreaks in both mainland China and Hong Kong had prompted doubts over whether Xi would risk traveling to the city as Beijing remains committed to a zero-COVID strategy.

Hong Kong has its own version of zero-COVID, which has kept the international business hub isolated for much of the pandemic. Outgoing city leader Carrie Lam said the situation was “not an alarm bell.” Hospitalizations have remained low even though daily case numbers have climbed to nearly 2,000.

ss/fb (AP, AFP, Reuters)

China’s Xi to attend Hong Kong handover anniversary (msn.com)

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