Xi hails China's rule on Hong Kong handover anniversary
July 1, 2022
Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Hong Kong to celebrate 25 years of the former British colony's handover to Beijing amid heightened security and a clampdown on pro-democracy protests.
China's president, Xi Jinping, on Friday oversaw tightly choreographed celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the former British colony's handover to Beijing amid a massive security presence.
"After reuniting with the motherland, Hong Kong's people became the masters of their own city," Xi said at the inauguration of the city's new government. "Hong Kong's true democracy started from here."
Incoming chief executive John Lee was sworn in as part of the festivities.
Celebrations kicked off with a flag-raising event at Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor. Lee watched as helicopters flew overhead dangling the flags of China and Hong Kong. A flotilla sprayed plumes of water as soldiers hoisted both flags.
Xi arrived in Hong Kong a day earlier by high-speed train, but spent the night in the neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen. This was his first trip out of mainland China since the beginning of the COVID pandemic and the first to Hong Kong since 2017, when he last took part in the July 1 celebrations.
The Chinese leader defended Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" formula of governance, saying it was successful under China's "comprehensive jurisdiction."
"For this kind of good system, there is no reason at all to change it. It must be maintained over the long term," he said.
Hong Kong: 25 years of Chinese rule
Heightened security and no protests
Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997. For years, the handover anniversary was marked with peaceful pro-democracy protests by tens of thousands of people. This year, however, authorities are clamping down to eliminate public opposition to China's rule over the financial hub.
Lee, the city's former security chief, has been sanctioned by the United States over his role in implementing the 2020 national security law, which drastically redefined the definitions of criminal acts like "secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers."
International skepticism as China hails 'true democracy'
Critics of the Chinese government, including Western nations, accuse authorities of trampling on freedoms ensured under the "one country, two systems" formula that guaranteed wide-ranging autonomy and judicial independence for China.
In an interview with DW, pro-democracy activist and former Hong Kong legislator Ted Hui said there was no reason to celebrate 25 years since the handover.
"People cannot take to the streets. There's no public protest or demonstrations ever allowed," he said. "All the free press has gone, civil society disbanded and more than 1,000 political prisoners are jail. So how can I be happy?"
Hui, who is in exile in Australia, called for the international community "to speak about Hong Kong's freedom and democracy," given the restrictions on freedom of speech within the territory.
A day earlier, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain was "not giving up on Hong Kong," accusing Beijing of failing to keep its promises: "It's a state of affairs that threatens both the rights and freedoms of Hongkongers and the continued progress and prosperity of their home."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed Washington's solidarity with the people of Hong Kong as they experience what he referred to as an "erosion of autonomy" under Chinese rule.
"It is now evident that Hong Kong and Beijing authorities no longer view democratic participation, fundamental freedoms, and an independent media," Blinken said in a statement, calling for people's personal freedoms to be restored.
"Australia remains deeply concerned by the continuing erosion of Hong Kong's rights, freedoms and autonomy, two years since the imposition of the National Security Law," the country's foreign minister, Penny Wong, said on Friday.