HONG KONG: A Hong Kong lawmaker who posed for a group photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the leader’s visit to the financial hub this week confirmed Sunday (Jul 3) he has since tested positive for COVID-19.
Xi visited Hong Kong under strict security measures to mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain in his first trip outside mainland China since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Steven Ho, a 42-year-old member of Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party who sits in the city’s rubber-stamp legislature, was one of about 100 officials granted close contact with Xi for a photo call on Thursday afternoon.
Ho was standing two rows directly behind Xi, according to the photos released by the government.
The lawmaker tested negative on the first day of Xi’s visit on Thursday and returned an uncertain test on Friday, he said.
He did not take part in any events on Friday after the uncertain test result, he said in a statement on social media.
“The sample of Jul 1 was one with extremely low infectivity and it was categorised as ‘uncertain’, but for the sake of public security, I did not participate in the events on that day,” Ho wrote.
Ho was the second member of the DAB party to have tested positive around Xi’s visit.
Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative to Beijing’s top lawmaking body, tested positive on Thursday and was absent from all events.
China is the only major economy still pursuing a zero-COVID approach of eliminating outbreaks as they emerge, using snap lockdowns and mass testing.
Xi has not left China in nearly 900 days and the vast country’s borders have been largely sealed to most outsiders.
Hong Kong is pursuing a lighter version of zero-COVID but has kept heavy travel and gathering restrictions in place throughout the pandemic.
Extraordinarily tight rules were imposed to ensure both the coronavirus and political opposition were not in Xi’s orbit during his trip to the city, where a democracy movement has been crushed since huge protests three years ago.
Hundreds of government officials, legislators and other invited guests were forced into an anti-COVID “closed-loop” system, which included limiting their social contacts, taking daily polymerase chain reaction tests and checking into a quarantine hotel in the days leading up to the visit.
During the visit, parts of the city were shut down, prominent dissidents were placed under heavy police surveillance, and multiple journalists were barred from covering the official events.
Nine arrests were made by the city’s national security police in the week before Xi’s visit and at least two arrests were made on Friday.