President Xi Jinping will attend celebrations next week to mark the 25th anniversary of the handover and the swearing-in of the next administration.
Mr Xi's attendance was announced on Saturday by the official Xinhua news agency, although its report didn't say whether the state leader will actually visit the SAR or will attend events virtually. Chief Executive Carrie Lam and incoming leader John Lee both welcomed the news.
"President Xi Jinping will attend a meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland," the brief report stated, adding that Mr Xi will also attend the inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term government of the Hong Kong SAR.
Mrs Lam said in a statement that the announcement shows the central government's support for Hong Kong and the importance it attaches to the city.
For his part, Mr Lee said the state leader's attendance was meaningful as the territory is at a critical juncture in transitioning from what he called "chaos to order" and towards "governance and prosperity."
President Xi last visited Hong Kong back in 2017 for Mrs Lam's inauguration. His attendance this time around has been in doubt as local Covid-19 infections have been rising and two top officials who will join the next administration have tested positive in recent days.
Officials and guests who have been invited to attend the ceremony are required to undergo daily PCR tests in the lead-up to the event and stay at a quarantine hotel the night before it.
Hong Kong's sole deputy to the National People's Congress Standing Committee, Tam Yiu-chung, said it was "very good" that President Xi will attend the events, but he added that the "fluctuating" pandemic situation was the reason that Xinhua had not spelt out whether he would come in person. Much would depend, he said, on whether the control measures in place are adequate.
The vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, Lau Siu-kai, said that – "based on common sense" – he believes Mr Xi will come to Hong Kong and give a keynote speech.
Last updated: 2022-06-25 HKT 15:17