Xi Jinping arrives in Macau to preside over celebrations and inaugurate new government

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Macau today to preside over the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Special Administrative Region and to inaugurate the new government.

The aircraft landed at Macau International Airport at 4 pm (8 am in Lisbon).

Hand-in-hand with his wife Peng Liyuan, Xi Jinping went down the airstairs and greeted Macau's outgoing Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On, the incoming Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng, Macau's First Leader Edmund Ho, several government dignitaries, and various local officials.

Dozens of children with flowers in their hands waved Macanese and Chinese flags to the sound of the Public Security Police Band.

Before walking a red carpet and greeting various officials standing there, Xi, 66, and his wife, 57, also received a bouquet each from the hands of two children who were waiting for them at the bottom of the airstairs.

After the protocol, the Chinese head of state delivered a brief speech.

The Chinese President will see a city where exceptional security measures have been taken, but with little sign of celebration. There are plenty of Christmas decorations but very few flags, stripes and other props to mark both Macau's 20th anniversary and the Chinese president's third visit in a decade. Locals seem out of touch with the celebrations.

The Chinese Communist Party leader will meet today with Macau's outgoing Chief Executive, Fernando Chui Sai On, who will cease his duties on Friday.

Tomorrow, Xi Jinping will meet with top government officials and several important figures from Macau, a territory that was under Portuguese administration until December 19, 1999.

On Friday morning, the Chinese president will attend the Macau SAR 20th anniversary ceremony and the inauguration of the 5th Macau Government, which will be headed by former Parliament Speaker Ho Iat Seng.

Subsequently, Xi Jinping will meet with new executive, legislature and judiciary officials. The Chinese leader will leave Macau on Friday.

Over 650 media professionals have registered to cover Xi Jinping's visit to Macau, which is surrounded by exceptional security measures.

Maritime connections to and from Hong Kong have been reduced and passenger checks were tightened. Chinese authorities have been using an artificial island to carry out security checks on vehicles crossing the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge since Tuesday.

According to media reports, these checks have resulted in several arrests and denied entries - in some cases involving journalists duly accredited to cover the ceremonies.

Xi is due to announce several measures to boost Macau's financial activity such as establishing a real estate stock exchange, securing land for the territory's development in mainland China, and implementing policies for the financial sector on an equal footing with neighboring city Hong Kong, which has been swept by more than six months of pro-democracy and anti-Beijing protests.

China resumed sovereignty over Macau on December 20, 1999, after more than 400 years of Portuguese rule.

Based on the 'one country, two systems' principle, the Macau Special Administrative Region is obliged to uphold the capitalist system and the rights, duties and freedoms of its citizens until 2049. The region benefits from a high level of autonomy in all areas except defense and diplomacy.

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