07/01/2017, 15.11
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Hong Kong’s 20 years marked by Xi Jinping's threats and police beating

by Paul Wang

The Chinese president warns of a "red line" against Hong Kong independence. He told young people to study the Chinese constitution, noting that the government must take measures to ensure greater security. Meanwhile, “patriotic thugs with triad background” beat up pro-democracy activists. After Xi’s departure, the 1st July march got underway. Some protesters called for Liu Xiaobo’s liberation. Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration has no practical significance.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – During the main ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Great Britain to China, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphatically said that the city belongs to the People's Republic of China.

In his address, Xi warned that all those who challenge Beijing's sovereignty not to cross the "red line". He also said that young Hongkongers should have a ‘full understanding’ of China’s constitution, which is based, in his view, on the "one country, two systems" principle, which governs relations between the city and the mainland.

Xi spoke at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, shortly after Hong Kong’s new chief executive Carrie Lam and her government were sworn in in front of some 2,000 local dignitaries and guests (pictured 1).

Not far from the centre, scores of young protesters demanding full democracy for Hong Kong and the liberation of dissident Liu Xiaobo and were attacked by police and pro-Beijing groups (pictured 2 and 3).

Protesters say they were beaten and taken away by force, some with bruises and broken ribs. A few filed a complain for the unprovoked attack, accusing the police of failing to protect them even when they were attacked by what they call "patriotic thugs with triad background”.

In his speech, a calm and smiling Xi reiterated the importance of the "a country, two systems" principle.

He acknowledged that there may be different ideas in Hong Kong on many topics, and that the central government was open to dialogue with everyone in the city. However, he ruled out independence as a goal.

Above all, he stressed that since 1997, the year of the handover, the Chinese constitution (i.e. the "country") comes before the principle of "two systems".

For many, the emphasis on China's constitution could lead to even greater interference from Beijing, not only in its political and economic affairs but also at the legal level, jeopardising the rule of law and independence the judiciary in accordance with the laws of the People’s Republic.

In his speech, Xi noted the importance of "maintaining Hong Kong’s status as an international financial, shipping and trading centre in order to promote further growth," but he did not mention the problems faced by people, like poor job prospects and the high cost of housing.

Xi also stressed that "Hong Kong needs to improve its systems to uphold national sovereignty, security and development interests." For several commentators, this suggests that a national security law might be coming. One has been proposed several times but has always been rejected by Hongkongers since 2003.

In fact, rallies drawing hundreds of thousands are held each year on 1st July to mark the rejection of the Security Act (the famous Art. 23).

This year, participants set off shortly after 3 pm, two hours after President Xi Jinping ended his visit to the city.

At 3.10 pm, Lam Wing-kee spoke on stage, urging mainland authorities to release Liu Xiaobo and his wife. Lam is one of five booksellers abducted by Chinese police in 2015 in a glaring example of mainland interference in Hong Kong affairs.

Au Nok-hin, who is a member of the Democratic Party, also spoke saying that the people of Hong Kong are increasingly concerned about the growing restrictions on freedom.

Meanwhile, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lu Kang yesterday said that the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration no longer had any practical significance or binding force on Beijing.

The Declaration, signed in 1984 by Great Britain and China, laid out the path for the former crown colony’s return to China.

Recently, some British ministers have said that China is failing to uphold its pledge to preserve Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.

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