(Hong Kong) Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday praised Hong Kong’s rule since its handover to Beijing, which he celebrated on the 25the The memory of a “true democracy” salute despite the repression that has been practiced for two years.
Updated at 0:22
In a ceremony, which also included the swearing in of a new local chief executive, Xi was able to highlight the Chinese Communist Party’s grip on the city after the wave of pro-democracy protests that swept the city in 2019, prompting Beijing to impose strict political repression.
In his speech, Mr. Xi stressed that Beijing has always acted “in the interest of Hong Kong”.
“After reunification with the motherland, Hong Kong residents became masters of their city,” he said, stressing that “real democracy” had begun at that time.
This visit is the first by a Chinese president outside mainland China since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic. It is also the first in Hong Kong since the major pro-democracy movement in 2019.
The head of state did not participate in the color-raising Friday morning, when under strong winds, incoming CEO John Lee attended the ceremony, which was led by soldiers on a goose-step, to the tunes of the national anthem.
According to local media, Xi spent the night in the Chinese mainland city of Shenzhen, and then returned to Hong Kong on Friday morning.
This day also marks the middle of a 50-year period of semi-autonomous rule, guided by the “one country, two systems” principle, negotiated between London and Beijing.
Until 2019, 1Verse July was an opportunity to demonstrate the freedoms the city enjoyed, as thousands of residents marched on the sidelines of the festivities to express their political and social demands.
But this procession, like any gathering, was officially banned by the police for two years for health and safety reasons.
According to government critics, the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 after the 2019 protests broke the promised freedoms.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken denounced the “erosion of autonomy” caused by this law in the region. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed not to “abandon” Hong Kong.
The criticism was shrugged off by Mr. Xi, who on Friday praised the “one country, two systems” principle as a “good system” and “must be maintained in the long run”.
The festivities are organized in a closed circuit system as a hygienic measure.
People who have been in Xi’s orbit during his trip, including senior government officials, have been told to limit contact, take daily PCR tests and spend the days leading up to the visit in a quarantine hotel.
Parts of the city were closed off and many journalists were prevented from attending the planned events.
The authorities have taken steps to eliminate any potential source of embarrassment during Xi Jinping’s stay. The National Security Police arrested at least nine people last week.
Police contacted dozens of members of the League of Social Democrats (LSD), one of Hong Kong’s last political opposition parties, not to demonstrate. LSD leaders told AFP that their homes had been searched.
The city is filled with posters announcing a new era of “stability, prosperity, and opportunity.”
The soccer fields in Victoria Park, which have been hosting pro-democracy protests, are hosting an anniversary fair, culminating in a huge Chinese flag, flanked by a smaller Hong Kong flag, each occupying half a space.
Kelvin Lamm, 40, who works in finance, who came to see the exhibition, told AFP he was taking part in the demonstrations on 1Verse July is before 2019, but the city now “looks different”.
“After what happened a few years ago, I think the priority now is safety,” adds a bystander, Ms.I Shaw was asked about the end of the rallies.
“A safe and stable life is the most important thing for ordinary people,” she said.
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