HONG KONG (Reuters) - The streets of Hong Kong have been festooned with Chinese flags and paraphernalia, including two huge harbourfront screens carrying celebratory messages.
Two banners painted in red with the Chinese text “Welcome President Xi Jinping to inspect Hong Kong” have been spotted hanging above the toll stations outside the Western Harbour Tunnel.
Some netizens expressed disapproval over what they see as "over-the-top" decorations, saying that the banners are distasteful. “I am disgusted by the combination of yellow and red,” a commenter said, according to Hong Kong Free Press website.
“What is happening? Am I in mainland China?” wrote another.
Upwards of 120,000 youngsters will join China-related activities at a time of growing disillusionment and bitterness towards Beijing among the city's younger generation.
Anonymous posters have been put up across the city in protest of Mr Xi’s visit starting Thursday (June 29).
Artwork depicting Mr Xi and outgoing Hong Kong leader Leung Chun Ying kissing were posted in an underpass in the Central district, alongside bilingual signs calling on people to “rise up for real autonomy".
— Fion Li (@fion_li) June 26, 2017
China's aircraft carrier Liaoning is also expected to make four-day visit to Hong Kong for the handover celebrations, reported South China Morning Post, quoting sources close to the Chinese military.
Details of where the Liaoning will berth to allow most people to see it have yet to be finalised.
President Xi arrives in Hong Kong on Thursday (June 29) to celebrate its 20th anniversary of Chinese rule, but he faces a city divided, mass protests and aggrieved crowds resentful of Beijing's growing meddling in local affairs.
A massive security presence is expected with thousands of police deployed to maintain order as protests simmer, including one on Saturday that could draw well over 100,000 people.
Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, under a "one country, two systems" formula which guarantees wide-ranging autonomy and judicial independence not seen in mainland China.
The central government in Beijing has promised Hong Kong's capitalist system will remain unchanged for "at least" 50 years, but it has not clarified what happens after that. Fears of the creeping influence of Communist Party leaders in Beijing are highlighted by the abduction by mainland agents of some Hong Kong booksellers who specialised in politically sensitive material and Beijing's efforts in disqualifying two pro-independence lawmakers elected to the city legislature.
An annual protest to press for full democracy in the city is expected to take place after Xi's departure on the afternoon of July 1.
The city is already on tenterhooks. On the eve of Mr Xi's visit, police arrested pro-democracy protesters, some of whom scrambled up a monument symbolising the city's handover from British to Chinese rule.