Xi Jinping to visit Hong Kong, his first trip outside China since COVID began
Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to visit Hong Kong next week to mark the 25th anniversary of the city's handover to China, the leader's first trip outside the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Xi's visit will include the attendance of the swearing-in ceremony of the city's new leader John Lee.
"Xi will attend a meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland," Xinhua news agency reported. "Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, will also attend the inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region," the Chinese agency said.
Hong Kong authorities have banned select media outlets from covering incoming leader John Lee's inauguration, citing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and security reasons.
Many of the barred outlets are registered and regularly attend government press conferences, the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported.
In an event that will see the attendance of Xi Jinping, select broadcasters have been nominated. The list of excluded media outlets includes Japan's Nikkei, Asahi Shimbun, and Kyodo News, Taiwan's CTV, Getty Images in the US, as well as Hong Kong's InMedia, and HKFP.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association said that it was "deeply concerned" by the move.
"[HKJA] urges the city's authorities to be more inclusive by accepting applications from media organisations keen to attend, so that those with a considerable readership can fulfil their duty in keeping the public informed by reporting on Hong Kong's historic moments," they said.
Last month, Xi Jinping met the newly appointed Hong Kong chief executive and thanked him for achieving a major transition in the city which he described as from "chaos to order."
In a meeting in Beijing, Xi congratulated Lee on his election win and appointment by the central government. Lee was the former security chief of Hong Kong who oversaw the crackdown on the democracy movement.
Lee, 64, is scheduled to assume his office on July 1, taking over from current chief executive Carrie Lam. The event will coincide with the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's transfer from British to Beijing under the "one country, two systems" framework to safeguard Hong Kong's freedoms.
Praising Lee for maintaining the unwavering stance of loving the country and Hong Kong, being willing to assume responsibilities and actively performing his duties, Xi said Lee has made contributions to safeguarding national security and Hong Kong's prosperity and stability in various roles.