Hu Arrives in HK for Handover Celebrations

Ahead of this weekend’s 15th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the mainland, the city’s outgoing and incoming chief executives welcomed President Hu Jintao and an entourage of other CCP officials at Hong Kong International Airport on Friday. From Xinhua News:

HKSAR Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen mounted the special plane to welcome Hu, also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

HKSAR Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying and a group of high- ranking officials were also present at the airport to greet Hu.

Upon his arrival at the Hong Kong International Airport, Hu said he hoped to witness the city’s latest development and progress and have a better understanding of the citizens’ life and expectations.

Hu said the central government is willing to work with the Hong Kong people from all walks of life to draw up the “precious experiences” in carrying out the “one country, two systems” policy over the past 15 years for further development.

Despite Hu’s call for unity in his airport speech, he arrives at a time of strain between Hong Kong and the mainland. For BBC News, Juliana Liu reports that an independent poll shows that the Hong Kong public’s mistrust of the Chinese government stands at a post handover high. The Financial Times’ Enid Tsui writes that Hu’s arrival is arousing mixed reactions:

Local officials, business tycoons and pro-Beijing politicians have literally painted the town red to mark the occasion. But tens of thousands of ordinary citizens plan to welcome the Chinese leader by taking to the streets in protest.

The July 1 anniversary has traditionally been the biggest day for protests in Hong Kong since the handover, and turnout this year is expected to be bigger than usual.

Protesters are calling for the resignation of Leung Chun-ying, who is scheduled to be inaugurated as Hong Kong chief executive on Sunday, over concerns that he misled the public about several illegal structures at his home.

However, the main target is the Chinese Communist party, which they believe is undermining the “one-country, two-system” framework that Britain and China agreed before the handover to ensure Hong Kong retained a high degree of autonomy.

Hu will also oversee the swearing-in of Leung Chun-ying, who in March won a campaign marked by scandals and protest and who faces a number of issues as he takes office. Reuters reports that for Leung, who has given inconsistent explanations for a series of illegal housing structures in his Victoria Peak villa, the honeymoon is over before it’s begun:

China had been hoping for a smooth transition of power from outgoing Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang to his Beijing-backed successor, Leung Chun-ying, but a series of scandals that has infuriated the public, and undermined the government’s reputation as clean and honest, makes that unlikely.

“He (Leung) will have a very difficult, if not turbulent, one or two years,” said political analyst Willy Lam. “The honeymoon has gone before he’s even started.”