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Xi celebrates stable Macau's 20th anniversary with expected rewards

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to preside over a lavish ceremony in Macau today, marking the 20th anniversary of its handover to Chinese rule, and the swearing-in of another Beijing-backed city government.

Xi is also due to announce policies aimed at diversifying the former Portuguese colony’s casino-dependent economy, in what is being seen as a reward for its loyalty, in contrast to nearby Hong Kong and its months of anti-government turmoil.

The measures are expected to include a new yuan-denominated stock exchange.

Xi’s speech will be closely watched and comes on the last day of a three-day visit marked by stringent security measures and border controls aimed at preventing any spillover of dissent from the former British colony of Hong Kong.

Some journalists, activists and even the heads of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong were barred from entering the city in the run-up to Xi’s visit. Macau authorities have not commented on the issue.

Ferry and light rail services have been restricted for the visit with operators citing security concerns.

Incoming Macau chief executive Ho Iat-seng will be sworn in for a five-year term along with his team of new secretaries in the morning.

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, across the mouth of the Pearl River, are furious by what they see as Beijing’s erosion of their freedoms, Macau has seen little dissent.

Protests are very rare in the territory. More than half of its 620,000 population immigrated from China in recent decades.

Macau’s cluster of islands have been decked out ahead of the anniversary with national flags and red banners hanging over schools, office towers and draped along roads.

Xi has met government officials and business representatives and visited schools and community centres and he praised Macau for upholding national security, according to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua.

- Reuters

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