Xi’s trip to Hong Kong in doubt after top officials infected with Covid virus

(Bloomberg) — President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of Chinese rule is rumored to be in doubt after the city’s top officials came down with Covid.

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The government revealed in a statement on Thursday that two senior members of the new CEO John Lee’s cabinet – including No. 2 – had tested positive for the virus. Li and his government are due to be sworn in on July 1, in a ceremony the Chinese leader is widely likely to attend.

While Xi’s visit has never been confirmed, China’s leaders have traditionally attended the swearing-in since 1997. Xi last visited five years ago when Carrie Lam became chief executive. The infection comes as the city has taken a more liberal approach to the virus than the mainland since an outbreak earlier this year that swept 7.4 million residents. Hong Kong recorded 1,522 new cases on Thursday, compared to 44 cases across China.

If Xi doesn’t come, it could show that Hong Kong has failed to do a good enough job of managing its COVID-19 situation, said Dongshu Liu, an assistant professor specializing in Chinese politics at City University of Hong Kong.

Local officials attending the July 1 celebrations are expected to enter into a week-long “closed-loop” arrangement that will confine them to their homes and workplaces, without using public transportation, culminating in a one-night hotel quarantine, the South China Morning Post reported. Previously citing sources.

“If more officials are injured, it will probably be more embarrassing and embarrassing than anything else,” Dongshu said. “After all, amid all the restrictions and measures in Hong Kong, the people who are ultimately infected are who they are. In the long run, if society uses these incidents to ridicule politicians, their power will be undermined.”

Mainland Affairs Minister Eric Tsang, who retains his position in the next government, and new chief trustee Eric Chan, are both now in isolation. The statement said Chan has been isolated since Tuesday after his wife tested positive for the virus. Chan and Tsang went to work the past Monday and Wednesday, respectively. Permanent Secretary for Development Ricky Lau was also injured.

If Lee and outgoing CEO Carrie Lam test positive, it could derail the entire July 1 celebration.

Lee has tested negative so far, according to a spokesperson for the CEO-elect’s office. The CEO-elect last met Mr. Eric Tsang and Mr. Eric Chan several days ago. Mr. Lee underwent a PCR test on Wednesday and the result was negative.”

Lam last had a “brief” face-to-face conversation with Chan on Monday, according to a government spokesperson, adding that relevant social distancing measures have been followed and therefore Lam is not considered a close contact. The spokesperson said she had not been in direct contact with Tsang in over a week. They said that Lam tests daily and the latest result was negative.

Beijing is making contingency plans for the ceremony, which includes sending a top official to the city and a “state leader” delivering a teleconference speech, SCMP reported Friday, citing Ip Kwok, a local deputy to the National People’s Congress. Congress, the legislature of China.

Xi has not left mainland China since January 2020, when he visited neighboring Myanmar at the start of the epidemic. Since then, the mainland has adhered to its own Covid Zero policy to try to eliminate all cases through lockdowns and mass testing.

Since Xi’s last visit, Hong Kong has seen historic anti-government protests in 2019 that eroded China’s growing influence on the city, leading to Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping national security law that has since crushed dissent. Xi then revamped the city’s electoral system to ensure that only patriots from the Communist Party could govern.

Chinese state media recently praised Xi’s “deep affection” for the city. The Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily published a 2,000-word article on Monday titled “Hong Kong’s development is always close to my heart,” highlighting Xi’s rhetoric throughout his decade in power about the city’s progress. The article was reprinted on the front page of the Beijing-controlled local newspaper, Ta Kung Pao, on Tuesday.

(Updates with potential contingency plans in paragraph 11)

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