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Xi no evil: Hong Kong bans protest slogans as Chinese president visits

At least 9,000 police officers — nearly a third of Hong Kong’s force — will be deployed during Xi’s visit to “prevent leaders from being embarrassed”.

world Updated: Jun 24, 2017 16:00 IST
The Guardian
The Guardian
Hong Kong
Chinese President Xi Jinping,Hong Kong,1989 Tiananmen Square massacre
File photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping.(AP)

Hong Kong police have launched a crackdown on political banners and images ahead of a visit to the city by Chinese President Xi Jinping to avoid “embarrassing” the country’s leaders.

Swaths of Hong Kong will be locked down this week and at least 9,000 police officers, nearly a third of the territory’s force, are set to be deployed during Xi’s three-day visit starting on Thursday.

Police have been instructed to remove signs calling for remembrance of the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre or advocating for direct elections of the city’s leader, according to local media reports . The aim of restricting the public’s right to freedom of expression is to “prevent leaders from being embarrassed” and signs must not appear on Xi’s routes through the city.

The tactic is more often associated with mainland China, where there is little tolerance of dissent, than Hong Kong.

A police source confirmed the directive, adding that frontline officers were under immense pressure to ensure Xi’s visit went smoothly and the protesters were kept away.

Images of Xi holding a yellow umbrella, a symbol of the 2014 pro-democracy protests , would also be removed by police.

Xi will visit Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the UK handing the city back to China and to swear in the new chief executive.

Performers pose for photographers in front of the 20 feet tall bronze statue of Guan Gong, a Chinese God of War, in Hong Kong on Saturday, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover to China. Guan Gong, who is the historical figure of general Guan Yu, is widely regarded as a symbol of loyalty and integrity. ( AP )

Since the handover in 1997, July 1 is typically marked by large-scale protests, and opposition parties have vowed to come out in force this year. Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist, has called for “ demonstration instead of celebration ” to mark Xi’s visit.

But activists have complained Hong Kong authorities are attempting to curtail their ability to protest, with officials denying protesters use of the typical rallying point of Victoria Park to begin their march to the city’s financial district.

Hong Kong police did not respond to requests for comment.

First Published: Jun 24, 2017 16:00 IST