Hong Kong held a flag-raising ceremony on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, as top government officials and some 12,000 guests watched from inside the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.
Nearby, the League of Social Democrats held a protest calling for the end of one-party rule in the mainland. Around 20 protesters—holding a black coffin as a prop— marched a short distance from the Wan Chai MTR station, before getting into a scuffle with a pro-China crowd. Police used pepper spray to separate the two groups, with at least one man in a blue top being detained.
The protest was the first of many scheduled for Tuesday, with pro-democracy activists calling on the public to mark “a day of mourning.” Protest rallies are planned for 1:30pm in six districts, with other activities potentially affecting the Sha Tin racecourse and the airport.
A march proposed by the Civil Human Rights Front has been banned, though four pro-democracy activists said they will take to the streets of Causeway Bay at 1pm despite police opposition. The Front lost an appeal to overturn the ban on Monday.
The MTR announced on Tuesday morning that it would close eight more stations from 11am—Causeway Bay, Sham Shui Po, Wong Tai Sin, Sha Tin, Che Kung Temple, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Tsuen Wan West. This was in addition to the closure of three MTR stations—Admiralty, Wan Chai and Prince Edward—announced the night before.
Starting from 2pm, the Airport Express will only provide non-stop service from Hong Kong station to the airport.
A heavy police presence was spotted in Wan Chai as the Hong Kong government held its celebratory activities at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. In a speech, Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung told guests that Hong Kong people “desperately yearn to get out of the existing gridlock.”
“The government has shown the greatest sincerity by establishing the Dialogue Office and set in train dialogue with the community in a bid to reconcile differences through communication,” he added. “The chief executive and all principal officials are reaching out to the community, initiating candid dialogue with people from all walks of life with the aim of exploring possible solutions in concert.”
While the flags of the Hong Kong SAR and China were raised at the Golden Bauhinia Square, guests were only able to watch it indoors via a live feed. The government said the arrangement was to ensure the event was held “solemnly and in a safe environment.”
Officials gathered for the flag-raising ceremony at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. But just like on July 1, the guests were inside watching a feed of the SAR and national flags being raised.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam was in Beijing to celebrate the occasion, leading a delegation of around 240 people.
At a Monday reception, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed that China would “continue to fully and faithfully implement the principles of ‘one country, two systems'” in Hong Kong.
“We are confident that, with the full support of the motherland and the joint efforts of our fellow Chinese in Hong Kong and Macau… [Hong Kong] will prosper and progress alongside the mainland,” Xi said.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Monday that the Chinese army had doubled its troop deployment in Hong Kong. Citing diplomat sources, it reported that troop levels have risen to 10,000 to 12,000, up from 3,000 to 5,000 a few months ago. Recent reinforcements also included “elements of the People’s Armed Police,” according to Reuters.
Police Public Relations Branch Chief Superintendent John Tse previously said that Tuesday’s protests will be “very, very dangerous”—though his claims have been dismissed by protesters as scaremongering.
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