President Xi Jinping will visit Macau between December 18 and 20, sources familiar with the matter have revealed to Macau Daily Times, notwithstanding the unrest in the neighbouring special administration region which cast doubt on whether the pre-planned and widely-anticipated visit would go ahead.
According to the sources, which requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, President Xi will join the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the handover of Macau to Chinese sovereignty.
From a source close to the government in Lisbon, Prime Minister António Costa – recently elected for a second term in office – may also come to Macau to attend the ceremony. However, the Consulate General of Portugal in Macau and Hong Kong has said that there is yet no record of a formal invitation being issued.
The Consul General of Portugal in Macau and Hong Kong, Paulo Alves, has shared that “as of now, we have no information of who is coming, or even if someone is coming.”
Usually, Portuguese high officials are not invited to the MSAR’s anniversary day, however, this is a special one.
“We see this as a Chinese celebration, but that doesn’t mean that this time, being a landmark anniversary – or in the future – this could not change,” the Portuguese diplomat added. However, “as of [Monday], no invitation had been sent to Portugal” or its missions in China.
The Macau Government Spokesperson Office did not immediately respond to our enquiry on Monday on the details of President Xi’s visit, nor whether the Portuguese Prime Minister would be in attendance.
Xi last visited Macau in December 2014 to mark the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the SAR and oversee the appointment of Chui Sai On for a second term as Chief Executive. Xi used the occasion to urge Macau to reduce its reliance on the gaming sector and in doing so set a principal objective for the local government that remains a priority to this day.
In January, Xi’s anticipated 2019 visit to Macau was confirmed by the security chief of Guangdong Province, who said the President would “join the celebrations for the 20th anniversary in Macau [… and] deliver an important speech.”
Reports of Xi’s visit were later called into question after protests and violence erupted in Hong Kong in opposition to a controversial extradition bill and what is regarded as mainland encroachment on the city’s freedoms and its semi-autonomous status.
The Chinese President also visited the neighbouring city of Zhuhai last year to preside over the opening of the delta-spanning Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge on October 23. He did not cross over to the Macau or Hong Kong sides of the bridge.