Thursday, 20 September, 2018

Xi departs Hong Kong after speech, inauguration

Hong-Kong-China-20-Years-11 AP PHOTOS: UK symbols fade, China's rise in new Hong Kong
Carol Daniels | 02 July, 2017, 01:36

Out on the streets, marchers carried punch-bags and toilets bearing the faces of Hong Kong's leaders, as well as a cardboard cutout of visiting President Xi Jinping holding a yellow umbrella in a reference to the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement for universal suffrage.

In the wake of the turnover in 1997, the Chinese government agreed that Hong Kong and the mainland would operate under a "one country, two systems" agreement. but Beijing no longer believes this setup to be in the best interests of the central government.

Minor scuffles broke out under a blue sky as pro-democracy activists, some with banners bearing the words "Democracy".

However, surveys have shown that people in Hong Kong are beginning to reject the notion that they are both Hong Kongers and Chinese, and identification among young Hong Kongers is becoming stronger, he said.

March organizer Au Nok-hin called on people to stand up for Hong Kong's rights and freedoms under the terms of the handover treaty, which China dismissed on Friday as "a historical document. with no practical application", and which the United Kingdom said is still valid.

Xi left the city after he delivered a speech warning that activities in Hong Kong seen as threats against China's sovereignty would be "absolutely impermissible". The official transcript of Xi's speech was printed in the mainland's simplified characters instead of Hong Kong's traditional complex characters.

As more young people are identifying as Hong Kongers and requesting democracy, they are likely to resort to civil disobedience to make sure that the "core values" of "two systems" do not change, and the number of confrontations is expected to increase, he said.

The mood among many pro-democracy campaigners is muted, nothing like the anger and frustration that saw hundreds of thousands occupy the streets of central Hong Kong during 2014's "Umbrella Movement". Chinese authorities are suspected of taking them away from Hong Kong, even though they are not allowed to exercise police power there.

"The people of Hong Kong are very angry on this July 1 march, marking the 20th anniversary of the handover", lawmaker Lau Siu-lai told RFA. Nine democracy protesters, including Joshua Wong and lawmaker "long hair" Leung Kwok-hung, were bundled into police vans while several pro-China groups remained, cheering loudly and waving red China flags.

On July 1, 20 years ago, the United Kingdom handed rule of Hong Kong-a British colony for 150 years-to China.

Hong-Kong-China-20-Years-1-1
A protester shouts slogans against Chinese President Xi Jinping as pro-democracy protesters march in Hong Kong. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Earlier, China's President Xi presided over a swearing-in ceremony for Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's fifth chief executive since 1997.

In a speech that ran a fraction of Xi's 32-minute address, Lam reviewed the dynamic financial center's achievements and challenges, pledged to support central government initiatives and declared that "the future is bright".

The CBC's Elaine Chau, age 6, and her brother Edmond, in the front yard of their Montreal house in 1992, the year the family moved to Canada from Hong Kong.

Around 10 Demosisto activists said they were threatened in a separate incident by a policeman who said he would use his gun if they didn't stop "causing an obstruction" by handing out leaflets to passers-by. "Things are much more tense".

Small group of pro-democracy protesters had been arrested before Xi's three-day visit to Hong Kong, and released on its second day.

Still, some say such faith may be misplaced and point out that the British did nothing to promote democracy until the dying days of more than 150 years of colonial rule. Police estimated that 14,500 took part, down about 5,000 from their estimate previous year. The date is now marked with a march, one of the larger demonstrations in the territory's packed protest calendar, and the city remains the only place on Chinese soil where mass demonstrations are permitted.

Many participants said they were marching in support of imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who has been diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer.

Lam, who was elected in March by a mainly pro-China committee, called for unity to heal the city's "divided society".

Participants said the anniversary also comes amid widespread public anger at Hong Kong's own government, which has frequently been accused of caving in too easily to Beijing's interference in the city in recent years.

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