Xi lands in Macau for China handover anniversary party

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan arrive for the 20th anniversary celebrations of Macao’s return to China. (AP Photo)
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Updated 18 December 2019

Xi lands in Macau for China handover anniversary party

  • Macau’s celebration stands in stark contrast to months of unrest in neighboring Hong Kong
  • China’s authoritarian leadership is keen to showcase Macau as a successful example of its one country, two systems model

MACAU: Chinese president Xi Jinping landed in Macau on Wednesday as the city prepares to mark 20 years since the former Portuguese colony was returned, a celebration that stands in stark contrast to months of unrest in neighboring Hong Kong.
Security has been ramped up ahead of Xi’s three-day visit which culminates on Friday’s anniversary.
China’s authoritarian leadership is keen to showcase Macau as a successful example of its “one country, two systems” model, with party leaders heaping praise on a pliant city of 700,000 that has grown rich on gambling and deference to authoritarian rule.
“The Chinese people and the central government are proud of the achievements and progress Macau has made in the past 20 years since its return to the motherland,” Xi said on arrival at the city’s airport, a troupe of school children waving Chinese and Macau flags behind him.
Since the 1999 handover by Lisbon, Macau has witnessed little of the dissent that has exploded in Hong Kong during six months of often violent pro-democracy protests as large chunks of the population seethes under Beijing’s rule.
Like Hong Kong it maintains its own currency, judiciary and free market. But it has long since passed mainland style anti-sedition laws that have been successfully resisted by Hong Kongers.
Limited details have been released by authorities on Xi’s schedule.
He will meet local leaders and attend a dinner and a cultural performance on Thursday. The following day Xi will preside over the inauguration of the city’s new leader Ho Iat-seng.
A former member of China’s top lawmaking body, Ho won a one-horse race this summer to become chief executive — a position that is chosen by a 400-member committee stacked with Beijing loyalists.
Bunting and banners hailing the anniversary were erected across the city, including on some of the casinos that serve as the territory’s lifeblood.
Security has been dramatically tightened ahead of Xi’s visit.
Police set up checkpoints and extra screenings for passenger arrivals while authorities said some major roads would see closures.
The city’s first light rail line announced it would shut down for the duration, just a week after it was first opened to the public while the airport said some flights would be rescheduled.
Security checks were also ramped up in Hong Kong’s ferry terminals and on a huge bridge and tunnel system linking the two cities.
Since last week police from mainland China have been manning a newly created checkpoint on an artificial island that links the bridge and tunnel system between Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai, the first time they have done so.
Multiple journalists with Hong Kong passports working for local and international media have been denied entry to Macau in the run up to the anniversary while a group of pro-democracy lawmakers were denied permission to board a ferry on Wednesday.
Earlier this month the president and chairman of Hong Kong’s American Chamber of Commerce were also denied entry to Macau without explanation.
“It’s totally one country, one system,” a 34-year-old local who regularly travels to Hong Kong told AFP, adding that protesting in Macau was “pointless and dangerous.”
“The reason it looks like it’s working well is because Macau people don’t protest.”
But he said there was local anger about the wealth of the city’s elites, the limited transport infrastructure and severe overcrowding, even though the population have become wealthier.
Macau’s skyline and economy have changed beyond recognition since four centuries of Portuguese rule ended in 1999, with glittering casinos the backbone of the city’s dramatic rise.
As the only place in China where gambling is allowed, Macau’s GDP has soared from $6.4 billion in 1999 to more than $55 billion.
Per capita GDP is the third highest in the world behind Luxembourg and Switzerland, according to the International Monetary Fund, while its casinos now rake in each week the same as Las Vegas makes in a month.
But while Macau has grown rich and been politically stable in the 20 years of Chinese rule, it has many vulnerabilities.
Much of the city’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small elite and all its economic chips are in the gambling basket which still accounts for 80 percent of government revenue.


90-minute British DnaNudge COVID-19 test is accurate, Lancet study finds

Updated 18 September 2020

90-minute British DnaNudge COVID-19 test is accurate, Lancet study finds

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC radio that Britain was rolling out the tests across hospitals
  • Hancock said the machines could also be deployed at other locations such as schools

LONDON: A British COVID-19 test known as DnaNudge that gives results in just over an hour and which requires no laboratory was accurate in almost all cases, an academic review in the Lancet has found.
Faster testing could allow more people to return to work or permit testing on entry to hospital, thus slowing a second spike in coronavirus infections.
The new test, based on the design of a DNA test developed by a professor at Imperial College London, received approval for clinical use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) at the end of April after successful trials.
In a study in The Lancet Microbe, the test was found to have an average sensitivity – the ability to correctly identify those with COVID-19 – of 94.4% and a specificity – correctly identifying those without the disease – of 100%.
“These results suggest that the CovidNudge test, which can be performed at a patient’s bedside without the need to handle any sample material, has comparable accuracy to standard laboratory testing,” Professor Graham Cooke, lead author of the study from the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, said.
The Lancet paper described the test, which requires one nostril swab, as “a sensitive, specific, and rapid point of care test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 without laboratory handling or sample pre-processing.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC radio that Britain was rolling out the tests across hospitals.
“The critical thing in terms of usefulness is that the machine doesn’t need to be in a lab — it is about the size of a shoebox — therefore you can put one, say, in an A&E (accident and emergency) department and they can know whether people coming in have got the coronavirus or not,” Hancock said.
Hancock said the machines could also be deployed at other locations such as schools.
Each box can run one test at a time so could process about 16 tests per day, said a spokeswoman for the company that produces the tests.