Hong Kong (CNN). Chinese flags flutter above streets and red celebratory banners line the harbor front, as a beaming crowd of masked officials and school children wave and chant in unison inside Hong Kong’s high-speed rail terminus, welcoming the arrival of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
In his first trip outside mainland China since the start of the pandemic, Xi arrived in Hong Kong Thursday to mark the 25th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule on July 1 — a highly symbolic event at a pivotal time for both the city, and Xi himself.
The former British colony is midway through the 50-year promise of “a high degree of autonomy,” given by Beijing under a framework known as “one country, two systems.” It is also swearing in its newly appointed leader, hardline former police officer John Lee.
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