SHANGHAI: Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong for the 25th anniversary of the city's handover to mainland China, state news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday (Jun 25).
The trip will be Xi's first known visit outside mainland China since January 2020 after the COVID-19
"President Xi Jinping will attend a meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland," Xinhua 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," it added.
Xi last visited the former British colony in 2017 to swear in city leader Carrie Lam and it is customary for Chinese leaders to travel to the city for key handover anniversary dates.
Uncertainties over whether Xi would visit the former British colony grew in the past weeks as new COVID-19 infections increased in the city, with two incoming senior officials among the latest cases.
China adopts stringent COVID-19 policies and travel restrictions which aim to eradicate all outbreaks, at just about any cost, running counter to a global trend of trying to co-exist with the virus.
Critics said Hong Kong's 25th handover anniversary is significant to China which sees the city stabilising from the mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, after the implementation of the national security law, and electoral reforms that ensure only "patriots" can work in the government and lawmaking body.
John Lee will become the city's new leader on Jul 1, replacing Carrie Lam.
A former top policeman turned civil servant, Lee oversaw the city's security policies during mass pro-democracy protests in 2019. He has pledged to maintain a firm grip on the city under a national security law, in line with China's sovereign interests.
Hong Kong was handed over to China on Jul 1, 1997, after 156 years of British colonial rule.