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China's Hu arrives in Hong Kong for handover anniversary

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:39 AM EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hong Kong has prospered since Britain handed it over to China in 1997
  • However, some Hong Kongers are concerned about Beijing's intentions
  • President Hu Jintao arrives in the territory at the start of a three-day visit
  • He will mark the handover's anniversary but also be the focus of protests

Hong Kong (CNN) -- President Hu Jintao of China arrived in Hong Kong on Friday ahead the 15th anniversary of the territory's handover from Britain, an event likely to bring into focus the city's complex feelings about Beijing's influence.

Hong Kong has prospered since its last British governor, Chris Patten, bade the territory a tearful farewell on July 1, 1997. It has benefited from its position as a financial and commercial gateway to China, riding the mainland's spectacular economic boom of the past two decades.

But the economic rewards have been mixed with unease about Beijing's intentions for Hong Kong in the longer term, with concerns about possible threats to freedom of speech and the rule of law.

Some Hong Kongers have also expressed reservations about the effect that mainland Chinese people are having on property prices and public services in the city.

Nonetheless, Hong Kong has its own borders and immigration control, even with China. It has its own currency, its own police force and system of law courts. It has freedom of expression and demonstration to a degree unheard of anywhere on the mainland.

This nuanced situation is expected to be reflected during Hu's three-day visit. He stepped off an Air China plane Friday onto a red carpet to be welcomed by a people wearing red caps and waving Chinese flags.

The outgoing Hong Kong chief executive, Donald Tsang, greeted Hu at Hong Kong Airport, the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Hong Kong 15 years later

Also present were other senior officials from the territory, notably the Beijing-backed chief executive-elect of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying. Leung, who has long-standing ties to the mainland, is set to take office on Sunday in Hu's presence.

Open Mic: Hong Kong's identity

The Chinese president is scheduled to attend a string of other events over the next three days, including a flag-raising ceremony, a firework display and a parachute jump by members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

China and Hong Kong: Who needs whom?

Protesters have said they will follow Hu throughout his visit in order to bring attention to human rights abuses in China. They are planning a big demonstration on Sunday afternoon.

One particularly sensitive issue for the protesters is the death this month of Li Wangyang, a high-profile dissident who had spent more than 20 years in jail following his support of the Tiananmen Square student protests in 1989.

Li was found hanging in his hospital room in Shaoyang, Hunan Province, on June 6. The local authorities said he had committed suicide, a claim that friends of the deaf and blind labor rights activist have contested. Hong Kong government officials have also questioned whether Li could have committed suicide.

The Chinese authorities are now investigating his death.

The weather is also threatening to disrupt Hu's visit. Tropical Storm Doksuri was heading across the South China Sea on Friday toward the the Chinese coast near Hong Kong, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. The storm is expected to hit land overnight.

CNN's Jethro Mullen, Tim Schwarz and Hilary Whiteman contributed to this report.

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