(Bloomberg) – President Xi Jinping’s supposed visit to Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of Chinese rule in the city has been thrown into doubt, after senior city officials were infected with Covid.
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Two members of new chief executive John Lee’s cabinet have tested positive for the virus, the government said in a statement on Thursday. Lee and his government are due to be sworn in on July 1, in a ceremony the Chinese leader has been widely invited to attend.
Mainland Affairs Secretary Erick Tsang, who retains his post in the next government, and the new Chief Secretary, Eric Chan, are now both in isolation. Chan has been in isolation since June 21, the statement said, after his wife tested positive for the virus. Chan and Tsang went to work last Monday and Wednesday, respectively. Permanent Secretary for Development Ricky Lau is also infected.
It’s unclear when Lee had direct contact with the infected officials, or when he last took a Covid test. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the two points. If Lee and outgoing general manager Carrie Lam test positive, it could derail the entire July 1 transfer celebration.
Xi’s absence next week would mark the first time a Chinese leader has skipped a chief executive’s swearing-in ceremony on July 1 since Britain returned the financial hub to China in 1997. .
Beijing is “deeply concerned” about the infections and fears that the closed-loop system they have entered to prevent any risk of infection for top Chinese leaders at next Friday’s event is not working, the South reported. China Morning Post, citing an unidentified person. It is unclear how this development would affect a visit by a head of state, the source added. Beijing has yet to confirm who will travel to Hong Kong for the event.
The trip was to be Xi’s first outside mainland China since January 2020, after its Covid Zero policy closed the country’s borders and limited it to virtual attendance at international events. A trip by the Chinese leader to Hong Kong even as it records more than 1,000 daily Covid cases would signal its determination to stamp Beijing’s mark of control over the former British colony, after years of turmoil.
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