Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in Hong Kong later this week to take part in celebrations marking 20 years since the city was handed back over to China.
Xi’s visit (and the anniversary) comes at an important and contentious time for the former British colony, with Carrie Lam set to take office as Hong Kong’s next chief executive on July 1st (Saturday) after being selected for the position in March by a 1,194-member pro-Beijing committee.
Over the past week, Lam has made a number of comments that have raised eyebrows in Hong Kong. In an interview with the BBC, she rejected accusations that she was nothing more than a “puppet” for Beijing after winning her position thanks to the votes of a non-representative 0.1% of the Hong Kong public.
“I know perception is important,” she said, “but to say that I am just a puppet, that I won this election because of pro-Beijing forces, is a failure to acknowledge what I have done in Hong Kong over the last 36 years for the people of Hong Kong.”
However, when asked by CNN last week about the continued dentition of Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, Lam said simply that it would “not be appropriate for us to go into the mainland or challenge what happens in the mainland.”
The city’s next chief executive also has sparked anger after announcing her plan to begin teaching children in Hong Kong from the time that they start kindergarten the message that: “I am Chinese.”
While 20 years ago, 31% of Hongkongers aged 18 to 29 identified themselves as “broadly Chinese,” that number has now plummeted down to just 3.1%, according to a regular University of Hong Kong survey.
Meanwhile, Lam’s election, increased meddling from the mainland and sky-high real estate prices have caused many of the city’s young people to say that they are worse off now than they were 20 years ago.
“Now … I don’t want to say I am Chinese,” 20-year-old student activist Chau Ho-oi told Reuters. “It gives me a very negative feeling. Even if you ask me 100 times, I would say the same thing.”
Xi is due to arrive in Hong Kong on Thursday, staying until Saturday when he will be on hand to witness Lam’s administration being sworn in. Along with the festivities, he will also spend time “inspecting” the city, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency, and helping to “unify Hong Kong society.”
The SCMP reports that during his busy three-day trip, he will be visiting the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project, dining with outgoing Chief Executive CY Leung and inspecting a local PLA garrison, but will not have time to visit with local families.
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