Xi Jinping may have contracted Corona while traveling abroad

Xi Jinping and John Lee (middle right)

The Chinese head of state next to the top politician from Hong Kong, who has now tested positive for the corona virus.

(Photo: AP)

Bangkok Hong Kong Prime Minister John Lee’s first trip abroad since he took office ends with a Covid infection. The top-ranking politician in the Chinese special administrative region tested positive for the corona virus on Monday after returning from Thailand.

Lee attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC) Summit in Bangkok in the Southeast Asian country. A government spokesman said he had a slight fever and was now in proper isolation.

The positive test after the summit weekend makes a number of other heads of state and government potential contact persons – including China’s head of state Xi Jinping. Xi and Lee have met several times in Bangkok, including at a gala dinner last Thursday. Photos from the event show the two politicians close together without face masks – surrounded by a group of escorts who wore face masks with the Chinese national flag.

From a Chinese perspective, Xi’s contact with the top politician from Hong Kong, who has now tested positive, underlines the risks of restarting international contacts. The country is still isolated.

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The strict entry restrictions have recently been relaxed somewhat. After their arrival, travelers will have to spend five days in central hotel quarantine instead of the previous seven days. In addition, instead of mass tests, there will be more targeted test measures in the future, the authorities announced a week and a half ago.

Xi refrained from corona protection measures

On his trip to Southeast Asia, where he also attended the G20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali before the Apec summit in Bangkok, Xi Jinping conspicuously often refrained from taking corona precautionary measures. He regularly appeared without a mask in public appearances and shook hands with other heads of state and government.

>> Read also: Violent corona outbreaks in China – fear of new lockdowns is growing

Just two months ago, during his state visit to Kazakhstan, Xi was much more reserved in this regard. Observers took the new looseness as an indication of a changed view of the pandemic from China’s leadership.

In Bangkok, however, Xi’s appearance caused astonishment: Footage from a photo op with Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha gave the impression that the Apec host wanted to shake hands with the Chinese President, which he seemed to ignore.

Xi Jinping meets Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha

Xi often appeared without a mask during the summit and shook hands with interlocutors.

(Photo: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire)

The scene was heavily discussed on social media. A Thai government spokesman later explained the rejection with China’s corona measures. There was no explanation as to why Xi shook hands with other heads of government – ​​and later also with Prayut.

A prominent Covid case had previously become known on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali. Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen tested positive for the corona virus shortly after arriving at the conference venue. However, his local contacts were limited: he missed a joint dinner with other heads of state and government because of his late arrival in Indonesia. After the positive test, Hun Sen left immediately with his delegation – a planned meeting with Xi Jinping was therefore cancelled.

Hun Sen had previously hosted the summit of the Southeast Asian community of states Asean in his home country and the East Asia Summit, which was also attended by US President Joe Biden and China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang. The Cambodian head of government canceled his originally planned trip to the Apec summit because of the illness.

China’s President Xi has not made any public appearances since returning from Thailand, where the APEC summit ended on Saturday. A meeting with Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who is expected to be a state guest, is on his schedule for Thursday. With regard to Xi’s contact with Hong Kong Prime Minister Lee, who has now tested positive, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: “The Chinese delegation has taken appropriate precautions in accordance with the Covid prevention rules.”

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