China’s Xi praises Macau while protests rock Hong Kong
Chinese President, in Macau to celebrate 20th anniversary of handover, is expected to reward it for its stability and loyalty
MACAU/HONG KONG: China's President Xi Jinping arrived in Macau yesterday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its handover to China and is expected to announce economic perks as a reward for its stability and loyalty as protests rock nearby Hong Kong.
Security was tight in the gambling hub, especially for people arriving from Hong Kong. Among the polices Mr Xi is expected to announce are steps to diversifying the former Portuguese colony's economic base beyond its casinos.
"We will join hands to draw the blueprint for Macau's future development," Mr Xi said after arriving at Macau's airport, according to China's official Xinhua news agenccy.
Among the measures Mr Xi is expected to unveil are plans to develop it into a financial centre, including a new yuan-denominated stock exchange.
Mr Xi's visit will include meetings with government officials and business representatives, as well as the swearing-in of Macau's newly chosen Beijing-backed leader, Mr Ho Iat Seng, tomorrow. Macau returned to Chinese rule on Dec 20, 1999, with the same "one country, two systems" formula aimed at preserving autonomy under which Hong Kong is governed.
While protesters in Hong Kong are infuriated by what they see as Beijing encroaching on their freedoms, Macau has seen little dissent.
Protests are rare in the territory, with more than half of Macau's 620,000 population immigrating from China in recent decades.
"The central government and the Chinese people are proud of the achievements and progress," Mr Xi said, according to Xinhua.
Flags and red congratulatory banners fluttered along roads and over buildings in the city in preparation for the anniversary celebrations tomorrow.
"Macau is the best, better than Hong Kong. Hong Kong has been taken over by those rioters and we are all affected," said a 73-year-old woman.
In Hong Kong, a ferry company barred a group of Hong Kong protesters, including a well-known pro-democracy activist, from boarding a boat yesterday to Macau.
Their travel company handed them a Macau police notice that said they intended to disrupt activities, prompting the authorities to ban them from entering the territory.
The heads of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong have also been barred from entering the city in the run-up to Mr Xi's visit, the chamber heads reported, adding that authorities did not give a reason.
In a separate development, Hong Kong's popular New Year's Eve fireworks will be cancelled for the first time in a decade, as more than six months of protests heighten security concerns, the Hong Kong Tourism Board said yesterday.
The fireworks will be replaced with Symphony of Lights, a multimedia light show involving projections on the city's tallest skyscrapers, tourism officials said. - REUTERS, AP