【BBC News】Xi Jinping in Hong Kong to mark 25 years of handover
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Hong Kong will on Friday mark 25 years since the city was handed back by the British to China.
President Xi Jinping is visiting the city in what is his first trip outside mainland China since January 2020 when the pandemic broke out.
His last trip to Hong Kong was in 2017 during its 20th anniversary handover.
The anniversary used to be marked by protests but these have been muted since the introduction in 2020 of a security law that has silenced dissent.
Various official events celebrating the handover will be held across the city on Friday, a public holiday. They typically culminate in a firework display over Victoria Harbour.
This comes in the wake of an Omicron outbreak in Hong Kong which fuelled doubts over whether Mr Xi would cancel his visit.
But he arrived in Hong Kong on Thursday via a high-speed train. He was greeted by outgoing chief executive Carrie Lam who spent her last day in office in Covid quarantine before she met Mr Xi.
Although details of his itinerary have not been made public, reports said he crossed the border again to spend the night in the nearby city of Shenzhen before returning to Hong Kong on Friday, where he is expected to deliver a speech.
Former police chief John Lee takes over on Friday as chief executive from Ms Lam, who led Hong Kong through a turbulent six years, when Beijing's growing power steadily eroded freedoms and sparked some of the biggest pro-democracy protests.
- take over：接手
Mr Lee, widely seen as a tough pro-Beijing leader, got the top job through an uncontested election - a particularly sore point for many Hongkongers who say China has gone back on its promise to make the process fully democratic eventually.
Ahead of the anniversary, state news outlet the People's Daily published a report on Mr Xi's "deep affection" for Hong Kong.
- ahead of：在...之前
"President Xi has deep feelings for this piece of land. He is very familiar with Hong Kong's situation [and] cares about its prosperity and stability," it said.
This year's anniversary comes as Beijing's grip on Hong Kong has tightened, most visible perhaps in the city's adherence to the so-called "zero Covid" strategy.
Even as much of the world opened up, Hong Kong stuck to the unyielding policy followed by mainland China to try to stamp out the virus, despite the economic toll.
- stamp out：消灭
In the two years since the national security law came into effect, Hong Kong's authorities have also been increasingly cracking down on dissent. The sweeping law criminalises any activities seen as supporting secession, subversion or collusion with foreign forces, and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
- crack down：打击
- sentence of life in prison：无期徒刑
Only Beijing-approved candidates are able to stand in local elections, many pro-democracy media outlets have closed and free speech has been curtailed.
Hong Kong was handed back from British to Chinese rule in 1997, at the end of a 99-year lease.
It was agreed that Hong Kong would be governed by a unique "one country, two systems" principle that guaranteed freedom of assembly and an independent judiciary for the next 50 years.
But critics says the national security law goes against that promise by effectively reducing Hong Kong's judicial autonomy and allowing authorities to stamp out protest or dissent.
In a recent interview, Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong said it was "heart breaking" to see the city's transformation.
"It's fair to say for 10 years after 1997, maybe a bit longer, things did not go too badly wrong, but they've gone downhill since, partly because [Mr] Xi and his colleagues are terrified of what Hong Kong actually stands for," he said at a press conference.
"I do believe that Hong Kong is a great city. I hope it will be a great city again."
(From:BBC News-Xi Jinping in Hong Kong to mark 25 years of handover)