The President takes part in the events of the 25th anniversary of the return of the former British colony to China
Under tight security and a bubble against the covid, China’s President Xi Jinping arrived in Hong Kong this Thursday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his return from the United Kingdom, which will be commemorated on Friday, July 1. In 1997, the British colony, thanks to its liberal tradition, was thought to help democratize the Communist Party regime, which continued to open its economy to capitalism and the world in search of its greatest growth in recent decades.
A quarter of a century later, the situation could not have been different. Beijing’s regime has not only become more authoritarian under Xi Jinping’s presidency, but it has also destroyed the freedoms Hong Kong enjoyed, which were greater than the rest of China. Good proof of this are the dozens of Democratic politicians in prison, such as the young Joshua Wong or the veteran Benny Tai, the shutdown of media outlets such as the Apple newspaper and the dismantling of political and civil groups for fear of the draconian National Security Act. Enacted by Beijing just two years ago, this law criminalizes virtually all political opposition, as the demands for democracy and universal suffrage can be seen as attempted secession and subversion, crimes punishable by up to three years in prison and life.
Just as the vigils for the Tiananmen massacre are no longer held, there will be no mass demonstration on July 1 this year to commemorate the transfer of sovereignty and the unfulfilled promise of universal suffrage, which Beijing committed to in Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Kong according to the principles of “one country, two systems” and “high degree of autonomy”. While both should theoretically be in effect until 2047 under the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984, they have been abandoned after the enactment of the National Security Act and the new Elections Act. The law, imposed last year, strengthens Beijing’s control over the appointment of Hong Kong’s chief executive and the local parliament, allowing politicians who claim democracy for their lack of “patriotism” to veto it.
With these laws, the Chinese regime has deactivated the democratic movement that led to the massive and violent demonstrations in the second half of 2019. To do this, it argues the control and stability both brought after the chaos caused by those protests, which his weekend turned into an “urban guerrilla” that confronted the police and destroyed the metro stations. To prevent incidents, police have closed off areas where the official delegation will pass, banned the flight of drones and searched the homes of Democratic activists.
“In recent years, Hong Kong has undergone many arduous tasks and overcome numerous risks and challenges,” Xi Jinping said in a short speech after arriving at West Kowloon station by train from China. Waving pompoms and national flags to the sound of the ‘Welcome March’ played by the police band, a small group of people waited for him, including some school children. Without mentioning the democratic protests or the coronavirus pandemic, Xi assured that “Hong Kong has gone through many difficulties, showing its strength and vitality through the principle of ‘one country, two systems’, which is powerful and guarantees the well-being of the village” .
As seen in the live broadcast on CCTV state television, Xi arrived in the city along with his wife, First Lady Peng Liyuan, and was received by outgoing Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who will be relieved tomorrow by former agent John Lee. The sole candidate, Lee, was nominated by the pro-Beijing electoral committee in May with 99.4% of its 1,416 votes. For Xi Jinping, Lee will be sworn in next Friday at a ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, for which his aides have been quarantined for a week. Two senior local government officials who were infected with Covid last week, Chief Secretary Eric Chan and the person in charge of relations with China, Erick Tsang, will not even be able to attend, despite having already recovered on Monday.
Within this ‘anti-covid bubble’, President Xi will meet 240 representatives of Hong Kong society, including businessmen, rectors and religious leaders, this Thursday, but he will not stay overnight in the city. After the events of that day, he returns to neighboring Shenzhen, in mainland China, where he returns tomorrow to celebrate the 25th anniversary. A very different agenda from his last visit for the 2017 commemoration, when he took part in 20 events and even led a military parade with 3,000 soldiers at the People’s Liberation Army barracks in Yuen Long.
Particularly wary of the coronavirus, it marks the first time Xi has left mainland China since the pandemic broke out in 2020. But only to visit a special administrative zone with its own border like Hong Kong, not to travel abroad. A very different situation from that of five years ago and especially of the return in 1997, when the West relied on the democratization of the Chinese regime. To prove that it was just wishful thinking, this 25th anniversary coincides with the NATO summit in Madrid, where China has been included as a “systemic” rival that “challenges our interests, security and values and follows the rules of the international trying to undermine order”.
Source: La Verdad
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