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China’s Xi Jinping claims Hong Kong handover marked ‘beginning of true democracy’

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“After its return to the motherland, Hong Kong compatriots grew to become masters of their very own affairs, Hong Kong individuals administered Hong Kong with a excessive diploma of autonomy, and that was the start of true democracy in Hong Kong,” Xi mentioned in a keynote tackle to Hong Kong officers to mark the twenty fifth anniversary of the handover.

The previous British colony is now on the midway level within the 50-year promise of “a excessive diploma of autonomy,” given by Beijing beneath a framework often called “one nation, two programs.”

However critics, together with Western governments, have accused Beijing of breaching these guarantees lately because it tightened its grip on Hong Kong.

In 2020, a yr after anti-government protests had rocked Hong Kong, Beijing imposed a sweeping nationwide safety regulation on the as soon as freewheeling metropolis. Two years later, no opposition lawmakers stay within the Hong Kong legislature, whereas almost all of its main pro-democracy figures, together with activists and politicians, have both been pressured into exile or imprisoned — with dozens of them behind bars.
Xi’s two-day visit was the primary time he had set foot within the metropolis since unleashing the sweeping crackdown.

In his speech, Xi struck a triumphant tone, declaring that Hong Kong had “put an finish to chaos and violence,” and was able to “break new floor and take a brand new leap ahead” within the subsequent 5 years.

He additionally careworn that Hong Kong have to be ruled by “patriots” — specifically these loyal to the ruling Communist Get together.

“It’s a common rule on the planet that political energy have to be within the arms of patriots. No nation or area on the planet will enable unpatriotic and even traitorous or treasonous forces and figures to grab energy,” Xi mentioned.

On the ceremony, Xi swore in John Lee, a former policeman turned safety chief, as Hong Kong’s new chief, changing outgoing Chief Government Carrie Lam.

Lee, who grew to become the face of the nationwide safety regulation after overseeing the arrests of dozens of activists and raids on newsrooms, laid out his imaginative and prescient for a “new chapter for Hong Kong.” He claimed town is simply as free and superior because it has all the time been — and vowed to proceed its growth, with a concentrate on higher integration with mainland China.

Muted temper within the streets

Earlier within the morning, Lee and lots of of Hong Kong officers attended a flag-raising ceremony beneath darkish skies subsequent to town’s Victoria Harbor, which kick-started the day of ceremonies.

The pomp and circumstance was largely restricted to the Conference and Exhibition Centre on the harbor entrance. On the streets, the temper was way more muted, resulting from Covid-19 restrictions, a closing storm and heightened safety.

Police presence was closely seen all through Friday morning, as officers in teams of 4 patrolled footbridges, sidewalks and subway stations and exits on the business districts of Admiralty and Wan Chai.

“There’s actually nothing to have a good time. The entire ceremony is extremely guarded and the general public is not invited anyway, similar to how (the federal government) does not need unusual individuals to hitch political discussions anymore,” mentioned Tse, a images fanatic in his 20s who got here to the waterfront to look at the police vessels and helicopters.

In Hong Kong, July 1 was historically marked by large-scale pro-democracy marches that thronged its busy most important streets. However no protests had been seen this yr. Many of the metropolis’s pro-democracy teams have disbanded following the nationwide safety regulation. And of the organizations that stay, none utilized for permits to stage peaceable protests throughout Xi’s journey, in response to police.

The few public gatherings that passed off on Friday had been organized by Beijing’s supporters.

Within the metropolis’s Tsim Sha Tsui district, simply throughout the water from the place the formal handover anniversary ceremonies had been held, a gaggle of about 30 individuals gathered to carry up the Chinese language nationwide flag and a patriotic banner.

Martin Chan, who was accompanied by his spouse and two youngsters, was among the many group braving the stormy climate to make the most of the general public vacation.

Chan mentioned his youngsters lived via the 2019 anti-government protests however had been nonetheless too younger to grasp why they occurred.

“What’s essential is that Hong Kong is secure and protected now,” he mentioned. “We have to respect one another, regardless of any variations, and in addition respect mainland China.”

Heartbreak and criticism

For professional-democracy politicians and activists who’ve fled Hong Kong, the anniversary is a poignant occasion to look at from afar.

Former lawmaker Ted Hui, who left town for Australia whereas on bail for what he says are politically motivated costs, mentioned in a Fb submit Friday that the anger in his coronary heart “was by no means extinguished.”

“I really feel so strongly about Hong Kong as if I’ve by no means left: I can not let go of the place I really like, and I can not let go of my comrades in jail,” he wrote.

“Hong Kong at the moment has greater than 1,000 political prisoners, along with a justice system destroyed by the evil nationwide safety regulation, in addition to the whole annihilation of free press and democratic society,” Hui mentioned.

One other former lawmaker Nathan Regulation, who fled to the UK in 2020, mentioned the Hong Kong he as soon as knew had turn out to be unrecognizable.

“We exist in struggles and in between the cracks: we left to maneuver in direction of a promised and perfect Hong Kong. After changing into estranged, we glance again on the metropolis that retains its glamorous facade, however this ‘new Hong Kong’ has misplaced its resonances, we’re nonetheless craving to return [to our old Hong Kong],” the 28-year-old mentioned in a Fb submit Thursday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned on Thursday the UK is doing “all it may” to carry China to its commitments over “one nation, two programs” in Hong Kong.

“However on the twenty fifth anniversary of the handover, we merely can not keep away from the truth that for a while now, Beijing has been failing to adjust to its obligations. It is a state of affairs that threatens each the rights and freedoms of Hong Kongers and the continued progress and prosperity of their house,” Johnson mentioned in a video assertion.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the “dismantling” of freedoms in Hong Kong.

“This date was envisioned because the midway level of fifty years of promised autonomy beneath the ‘one nation, two programs’ framework. But it’s now evident that Hong Kong and Beijing authorities now not view democratic participation, elementary freedoms, and an impartial media as a part of this imaginative and prescient,” he mentioned.

Extra reporting by CNN’s Charlie Fong.