Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Hong Kong on Thursday, stressing support for the city’s government at the start of a three-day visit marking the 20th anniversary of the “handover” from Britain to China.

This is Xi’s first official visit as head of state to what has been, since 1997, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. His last visit was in 2008, as Vice-President. Security was tight, with a heavy police presence at the airport.

Three points were made during Xi’s brief speech on Thursday at the airport.

  • The President expressed his gratitude to the people of Hong Kong for welcoming him and sent his blessings on the 20th anniversary of the handover.
  • The trip, he said, would show the central government’s support for Hong Kong’s administration. He said the central government has backed Hong Kong over the past two decades and will continue to support its development to improve people’s livelihoods.
  • He said the “one country, two systems” relationship between Hong Kong and China should be “smooth” and “carried forward into the future.” He added that the central government would work with “all sectors of Hong Kong” in looking forward to the future.

Xi added that he would look forward to seeing the “new changes” in Hong Kong and sampling its “new atmosphere” during his trip.

Protests are expected on Saturday.  July 1 demonstrations have become a fixture in the city and have drawn record crowds in recent years. On Wednesday night, police arrested close to 30 protestors, including student protest leader Joshua Wong, who had gathered to demonstrate at the “Forever Blooming Golden Bauhinia” statue, in Hong Kong island’s Wan Chai district. The statue is a gift to Hong Kong from China and also the territory’s official emblem.