President Xi Jinping began his three-day visit to Macau today by getting off the plane and immediately telling the Greater Bay’s smaller SAR that he was proud of all it had achieved these past 20 years.
The love is mutual, it would seem, as Macau has laid on a gushing display of patriotism ahead of the most important event of the past two decades since its return to Chinese control. This has included its security forces being placed on high alert. The HZMB has been manned by armed police just inside Guangdong waters; the ferry terminals have seen reduced sailings and strict checkpoints; and Gongbei, the main land crossing from the mainland, has been heavily beefed up with uniformed and plainclothed police.
The tiny territory of 670,000 residents is no place for troublemakers. Not this week, at least. Journalists have been detained and ejected, including one from the SCMP. A man from Hong Kong, allegedly a smuggler, was arrested, prompting a “don’t overreact” reaction from the city’s No. 2 official.
It’s a wonder there are any VIP gamblers brave enough to journey into the territory at all. Next week’s GGR numbers are not likely to look pretty.
Wisely, the Macau authorities have taken no chance with their brand-new Light Rail Transit system, closing it until after the big man has left town. Heaven forbid that it might have broken down while he is here.
Uncertainty continues to cloud the second-biggest event of the coming days, however. It has not yet been officially announced whether the massive new railway hub on Hengqin, the island opposite the casino district of Cotai, will open on Friday, presumably with President Xi cutting the ribbon. The trains appear to be running, but the Macau part of the jointly administered immigration hall had been rushing to get ready. The Lotus Bridge checkpoint is still in operation.
There are still two days to go. Stay tuned.