Hong Kong has ‘risen from the ashes’, Chinese Prez Xi says on handover anniversary visit

Updated on Jul 01, 2022 06:13 AM IST

Xi is in the ‘special administrative region” (SAR) to celebrate 25 years since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule, and the inauguration of its sixth administration.

Traffic police direct traffic near West Kowloon Station in Hong Kong on Thursday, as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Hong Kong to attend celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. (AFP)
Traffic police direct traffic near West Kowloon Station in Hong Kong on Thursday, as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Hong Kong to attend celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. (AFP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a visit to Hong Kong to mark the city’s 25th handover anniversary, told crowds on Thursday that the city has been “reborn of fire” and “risen from the ashes” in what appeared to be references to the pro-democracy protests quelled by security forces in 2019 and a large-scale Covid-19 outbreak earlier this year.

In his first trip outside the mainland in nearly 30 months, returning to the city after five years, Xi said the policy of “one country, two systems”, a mechanism under which the financial hub has been administered since its handover to China from Britain in 1997, was a success.

Xi, his wife Peng Liyuan, and Chinese delegates arrived by high-speed train at West Kowloon station in the city on Thursday.

The entourage was greeted by Chinese flag-waving residents and school students, who had been vetted in advance, as well as a cultural troupe, which performed the traditional “lion dance”.

As he disembarked from the high-speed train, a chant in Mandarin went around: “Welcome, welcome, warmly welcome”.

“Over the past five years, I have been all along concerned about and caring for Hong Kong, and my heart is always with Hong Kong compatriots,” Xi said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

“In a period of time, Hong Kong had withstood a series of grave tests and overcome a series of risks and challenges. Hong Kong has since emerged stronger and shown great vigour”.

Referring to a Chinese idiom, Xi said Hong Kong had been “reborn of fire”.

“After the wind and rain, Hong Kong has risen from the ashes.”

“A brighter future will beckon, if we forge ahead with perseverance,” Xi said, adding that as long as “one country, two systems is upheld unswervingly”, Hong Kong will have an “even brighter future and make new, greater contributions to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

Xi is in the ‘special administrative region” (SAR) to celebrate 25 years since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule, and the inauguration of its sixth administration.

It will be the second time that he would preside over the city’s anniversary event after a trip in 2017, according to Xinhua.

Xi’s visit to Hong Kong is of particular significance because it’s his first trip outside the mainland since January, 2020.

His last visit was to Myanmar in the third week of January, weeks after the first outbreak of Covid-19 was reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Since then, the Chinese president’s global diplomacy has mostly been limited to attending virtual summits and conferences. However, he did meet in person several heads of countries who were invited to attend the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in February earlier this year.

Hong Kong was rocked by pro-democracy protests for weeks in 2019, in response to what was seen as Beijing’s growing influence over the semi-autonomous city.

In 2020, Xi signed into law the Hong Kong national security bill in a closed-door meeting of the elites of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing, formalising a legislation that critics say is a major step towards crushing the city’s freedoms.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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