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Xi Jinping’s attendance at Hong Kong anniversary still unclear

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HONG KONG — Questions continue to swirl over whether Chinese leader Xi Jinping will attend the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule and the inauguration of the territory’s new ruler.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said Xi would attend the July Day commemorations, but did not say whether he would visit the city.

As with most business involving the ruling Communist Party, the travel plans of top leaders are generally kept secret. However, Xi has not traveled outside mainland China throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

China has stuck to its zero-COVID strategy of eliminating outbreaks entirely by mass-testing the population and locking down buildings, neighborhoods or entire cities for weeks. Hong Kong is seeing infections rise again recently after a flood of cases earlier this year threatened to overwhelm its hospitals.

While the Hong Kong commemorations are purely symbolic, they will include Friday’s installation of former security chief John Lee, who led a harsh crackdown on 2019 pro-democracy protests, as chief executive of the town.

Since the protests, Beijing has imposed a national security law that has imprisoned, silenced or exiled Hong Kong political activists; restriction of freedom of expression and assembly; and remove or disqualify people from public office if they are deemed unpatriotic.

In 2017, Xi delivered a speech at the 20th anniversary commemorations in which he promised the central government would take a hard line against any challenge to his authority.

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