Hong Kong leader to meet Xi on maiden duty visit to Beijing

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong leader John Lee said on Tuesday he will meet China’s President Xi Jinping to report on the city’s political, economic and COVID-19 situations during his maiden duty visit in Beijing this week.

Lee will depart for a four-day trip on Wednesday afternoon, he said at a news briefing. Macao chief executive Ho Iat Seng will visit during the same period to explain his administration’s work over the past year and its policy focuses next year, the government there said.

Lee promised to reflect Hong Kongers’ hopes to reopen the border with mainland China, but he did not say when that will happen. Most checkpoints between Hong Kong and China have been closed during much of the pandemic.

“I believe the central government understands very much about Hong Kong residents’ longstanding hopes for reopening the border and having exchanges in a normal manner,” he said.

Lee, a former security minister, took over the city’s top job on July 1. He was the sole candidate in Hong Kong’s chief executive election in May and won over 99% of the vote from a committee stacked with mostly pro-Beijing members.

Last month, Lee asked Beijing to make a ruling that could effectively block prominent pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai from hiring a British lawyer for his national security trial hours after the city’s top court approved Lai’s plan to be represented by Timothy Owen.

Lee said on Tuesday that mainland authorities have shown support to his move, adding that he anticipated Beijing would make the decision as soon as possible.

Lai’s trial was originally scheduled for Dec. 1 but has been postponed to next September as the city awaits Beijing’s decision.

The 75-year-old founder of the the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was arrested in 2020 during a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement. He faces up to life in prison if convicted under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on the former British colony.

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