Hong Kong (CNN)Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Hong Kong amid unprecedented security Thursday, his first official visit as leader, as the city marks 20 years of Chinese rule on Saturday.
Xi’s plane is expected to touch down at noon local time, and he will then drive into the city in a heavily protected motorcade.
Protests broke out late Wednesday ahead of Xi’s highly choreographed visit, with activists storming Golden Bauhinia Square — the site of an official flag-raising ceremony later this week — and occupying it for several hours before police removed them.
The protesters were led by former “Umbrella Movement” leaders Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, both of whom were carried off the square by police and arrested on public nuisance offenses.
Around two dozen protesters marched on Golden Bauhinia Square — the site of a large gold statue of a Bauhinia flower bequeathed to the city by Beijing — at 5:30 p.m. as crowds of bemused tourists watched.
“Hong Kong people will continue to fight for democracy until the day we get our rights,” said Wong, who later joined other protesters in chants of “the world is watching, only Xi Jinping cannot see.”
After three hours of standoff, police carefully cleared ornamental plant pots from around the statue and then read protesters their rights individually before carrying them off. Several protesters had to be removed from the top of the statue via a fire truck cherry picker.
Demosisto, the political party of Law and Wong, said all its activists had been arrested on public nuisance offenses after they repeatedly ignored police requests to leave the square.
Huge security operation
Much of Wan Chai, a bustling business district in the city center where Xi will stay, is on partial lockdown, with 300, 2-ton barricades erected on roads around the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The venue will host many events marking the city’s handover from the UK to China.
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