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China marks 70 years of Communist rule

October 1, 2019

Festivities have begun in celebration of 70 years of Communist Party rule in the People's Republic of China. The semiautonomous territory of Hong Kong has gone into lockdown.

Military vehicles carrying HHQ-9B surface-to-air missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square
Image: Getty Images/AFP/G. Baker

China's ruling Communist Party has begun celebrating 70 years in power, with a parade showcasing the country's economic growth and newest weapons topping the agenda. Tuesday's main event marks the anniversary of the announcement on October 1, 1949, of the founding of the People's Republic of China by then-leader Mao Zedong following a two-decade civil war.

"There is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation," President Xi Jinping said early Tuesday, standing alongside party leaders on Tiananmen Square, the site of a multiday massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989. "No force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation from forging ahead."

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The military put its most advanced weapons on display in the Tuesday morning parade, including the first public appearance of a nuclear missile designed to evade US defense systems. Thousands of soldiers marched in lockstep through the square as fighter jets flew by. 

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The parade follows Xi's promise to allow the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong to manage its own affairs despite anti-government protests that have embarrassed the Communist Party ahead of the year's highest-profile propaganda event. The display lets the Communist Party leadership project an image of national strength and unity in the face of challenges — including Hong Kong's political unrest, slowing economic growth and a trade war with the United States.

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Nearly four months of street demonstrations and the violent official response to them have wracked the former British colony, posing the gravest popular challenge to Xi since he came to power in 2012.

Read more: Thousands rally in Hong Kong to mark Umbrella Movement anniversary

'Day of grief' in Hong Kong

At a formal flag-raising ceremony and National Day reception at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong to mark the anniversary Tuesday, territorial Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said Hong Kong had become "unrecognizable." He said officials would use new thinking to address the deep-rooted social issues contributing to protester grievances.

Cheung attended the event in the place of municipal leader Carrie Lam, who led a delegation to Beijing for the major military parade and festivities to mark the anniversary.

Hong Kong's government mounted tight security ahead of rallies planned in multiple locations on Tuesday. Protest posters have called on people to mark October 1 as "a day of grief."

Read more: 30 years after Tiananmen, is China's pro-democracy movement losing steam?

Central government loyalists scuffled briefly with a small group of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong as the latter began to march at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday (2330 UTC Monday) to start the expected day of protests. Police lined up to try to keep the two groups apart, arresting two loyalists.

mkg, knp/cmk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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