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HK activists refused travel to Macao on day of Xi visit

December 18, 2019 GMT
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Pro-democracy activists hold up placards of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a ferry terminal in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. A ferry company barred a Hong Kong activist "Long Hair", whose real name is Leung Kwok-hung, from boarding a boat Wednesday to Macao, where Chinese President Xi Jinping is slated to arrive for the 20th anniversary of Macau's return to China, The placards read "Vindicate June 4th" and "Put an end to one-party Dictatorship". (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
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Pro-democracy activists hold up placards of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a ferry terminal in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. A ferry company barred a Hong Kong activist "Long Hair", whose real name is Leung Kwok-hung, from boarding a boat Wednesday to Macao, where Chinese President Xi Jinping is slated to arrive for the 20th anniversary of Macau's return to China, The placards read "Vindicate June 4th" and "Put an end to one-party Dictatorship". (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG (AP) — A ferry company barred a group of Hong Kong protesters, including a well-known pro-democracy activist, from boarding a boat Wednesday to Macao, where Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in for a much-trumpeted visit.

Like Hong Kong, Macao has a separate legal system from mainland China. In recent weeks, ahead of this week’s 20th anniversary of Macao’s return to Chinese control, state media have touted the former Portuguese colony as a shining example of how “one country, two systems” can work.

“The experience and unique characteristics gained from conscientiously implementing the policy of ‘one country, two systems’ is worth reviewing,” Xi said in remarks after he landed.

This same principle has been questioned during months of anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong.

Ahead of Xi’s arrival, activist Leung Kwok-hung, also known as “Long Hair,” and about 10 protesters held up posters of Xi and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam in a Hong Kong shopping center beside a terminal with ferries to neighboring Macao. They spoke about the five demands Hong Kong’s protesters have issued, which include greater democracy, and recalled the Tiananmen Square democracy movement that the military crushed in 1989.

The group was prevented from boarding a ferry. Their travel company handed them a Macao police notice that said Leung and others intended to disrupt activities around the 20th anniversary of the handover, prompting authorities to ban them from entering the territory.

“The Chinese government claims they want to make Macao a global financial center, like a second Hong Kong,” Leung said. “But how can you convince people to invest there if you stop them from going?”

An elite pro-Beijing panel selected Ho Iat-seng, a pro-establishment businessman and politician, as Macao’s new chief executive in August. In contrast to Hong Kong, Macao residents have exhibited far less resistance to the Communist Party-ruled central government.

The region is the world’s largest casino gambling market, raking in revenues dwarfing the Las Vegas Strip.

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Associated Press writer Yanan Wang in Beijing contributed to this report