Parts of Hong Kong have been shut down as part of a drastic security increase as the city prepares for a rare visit from one of China's top ranking officials.
Zhang Dejiang, who chairs China's communist-controlled legislature, is the first senior official to come to Hong Kong since the 2014 Occupy pro-democracy demonstrations. His visit is cited as evidence of Beijing's concern and support for the Asian financial hub, but local authorities are preparing for protests from residents opposed to China's tightening grip.
Zhang is officially visiting Hong Kong to speak at an economic conference Wednesday. He will also meet with a small group of pro-democracy legislators Wednesday evening. Protest groups have voiced anger at the exclusivity of this meeting. Zhang's visit is also expected to help Beijing gauge whether the city leader, Leung Chun-ying, should continue for another term after his post ends next March.
Thousands of police have been mobilized. Paving stones have been glued to the ground to prevent protestors from using them as missiles, inspired by protests in February during which demonstrators dug up and threw bricks.
"These young people have no idea that they could be putting Hong Kong on a potentially dangerous collision course with the motherland and bringing an unmitigated disaster," former top Hong Kong security official Regina Ip wrote in an editorial in the state-run China Daily.
Many young activists, however, continue to be increasingly vocal about Hong Kong's independence.
"[We] are facing a very great threat from China: Our culture, our language, our people...we are dying!" said Chan Ho-tin, head of the newly-formed National party which is expected to contest legislative elections in September.
Hong Kong is semi-autonomous since being handed back to China by Britain in 1997, with freedoms unseen on the mainland, but there are fears they are being stripped away.