Published: Sun, July 02, 2017
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Protests erupt as Hong Kong marks 20 years of handover

Protests erupt as Hong Kong marks 20 years of handover

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Saturday that any activities in Hong Kong seen as threatening China's sovereignty and stability would be "absolutely impermissible", employing some of his harshest language yet against burgeoning separatist sentiment in the territory.

Warned that security forces would be working overtime to stop crowds and banners from appearing on July 1, the 20th anniversary of Britain's handover of Hong Kong to China, the protesters made a decision to turn the tables by making this official object disappear - if only briefly.

Hong Kong has been roiled by political turmoil that brought tens of thousands of protesters onto the streets in 2014 demanding democratic reforms. A shiny and alien-looking presence near the Hong Kong convention center, it is a landmark that mainland Chinese tourists love to visit, but is mostly ignored by Hong Kong residents. She is Hong Kong's first female leader, reports Xinhua news agency.

Chan Wing-kee, a pro-Beijing businessman and politician, also has positive remarks to make about Xi's speech. "It's a more frank and pointed way of dealing with the problems", said former senior Hong Kong government adviser Lau Siu-kai on Hong Kong's Cable Television.

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. "At the same time, there was a strong warning to the localists and the pro-independence people". He also spoke on the strategic role of the HKIA in connecting the Mainland of China with the rest of the world and in taking forward the Belt and Road Initiative.

Organisers said 60,000 people joined the two-mile march - held every year since 1997 - blaming thunderstorms for falling short of the goal of 100,000 demonstrators. "I don't think he's going to give up".

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

"As we capitalise on our strengths and harness the opportunities presented by our country's development, Hong Kong's future is indeed bright and promising", Lam added. It also specifies universal suffrage as an eventual goal. 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.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam who took office on Saturday is not expected to ease the fears of Hong Kongers.

"My priority will be to heal the divide and to ease the frustration - and to unite our society to move forward", Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam said in March after her selection by a 1,200-person election committee stacked with Beijing loyalists.

The Chinese premier's speech was followed by Lam's address to her people.

There was other symbolism hinting at the balance of power.

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong say they are facing an unprecedented level of intimidation from police and pro-Beijing thugs as Chinese President Xi Jinping concludes his three-day trip to the city.

"When it comes to teaching history, for example, mainland China removes a lot of what we know as truth".

"Hong Kong is an affluent society, but it also faces enormous challenges posed by profound changes in the global economic environment and the increasingly intense worldwide competition", he said.

"There are plans among many people to immigrate again", Professor Chen said.
Now, many assert that the opposite is true as Beijing steps up the pressure on the island.

Derek Lam from the Demosisto party said that had to change. Security has been tight ahead of the July 1 anniversary, with some 9,000 police reportedly deployed to maintain order.

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.

University student Sean Law said Liu's fate showed what the party was capable of in suppressing its foes. "The message is clear: when all else fails, the army is the last resort", said Willy Lam, a Hong Kong political analyst, to Ap. But not much people are exercising that, yeah, so I'm a little bit disappointed.

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