Hong Kong celebrates July 1 handover anniversary

A pedestrian waits to cross the street as the flags of China and Hong Kong are displayed ahead of the July 1 anniversary in Hong Kong on June 27. (Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

Chinese and Hong Kong flags waved above the streets and red celebratory banners lined the harbor as thousands of Hong Kong police guarded the city’s high-speed rail terminus as Chinese leader Xi arrived. Jinping yesterday.

On his first trip outside mainland China since the start of the pandemic, Xi is heading to Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of his return to Chinese rule – a highly symbolic event at a pivotal time for the city and Xi himself. same.

The former British colony is halfway through the 50-year promise of a « high degree of autonomy », given by Beijing in a framework known as « one country, two systems ». He also swears in his newly appointed leader, hardline former police officer John Lee.

Xi, meanwhile, is just months away from completing his first decade in power – and is expected to seek an unprecedented third term in office at a key meeting of the ruling Communist Party this fall.

The two-day trip is a timely declaration of political victory for Xi, which brought Hong Kong to heel with a sweeping national security law following anti-government protests in 2019. In just two years, critics say, the law has been used to crush the city’s opposition movement , overhaul its electoral system, silence its outspoken media and cripple its once vibrant civil society.

The Hong Kong government has repeatedly denied that the national security law suppresses freedoms. Instead, he insists that the law ended the chaos and restored stability to the city.

For an authoritarian ruler obsessed with stability, Hong Kong can now feel more like home than ever. Unlike his previous visits to the city, Xi no longer needs to worry about any public expression of dissent – be it critical headlines on the front pages of local newspapers, protest slogans on billboards or mass gatherings in the streets.

Instead, he’s surrounded only by « patriotic » officials, loyal tycoons and a heavy set of security measures, including vast roadblocks and a citywide ban on drones. It is also separated from the public by a meticulously maintained ‘closed loop’ system – put in place to protect it from rising Covid-19 infections in the city.

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