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China marks 70th year; more protests in HK set

October 02, 2019

BEIJING: China celebrates 70 years of Communist Party supremacy Tuesday with a parade of tanks, missiles and troops, a muscular display of its rising superpower status even as it faces an unprecedented challenge to its authority in seething Hong Kong.

Authorities in Beijing have closed roads, banned the flying of kites and shut some bars as they tightened security for an event celebrating China’s journey from a country broken by war and poverty to being the world’s second-largest economy.

The massive military parade will roll across Tiananmen Square under the gaze of President Xi Jinping, the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, who founded the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949.

PROUD NATION Chinese troops march during a military parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. AFP PHOTO

New weapons — including a hypersonic drone and an intercontinental ballistic missile that can cover the United States — made their public debut, according to Paris-based analysts.

“Unity is iron and steel. Unity is a source of strength,” Xi said in a speech on Monday evening.

But behind the projection of strength at the tightly-choreographed event, a clutch of challenges are testing Xi’s ability to maintain economic and political stability at home and abroad.

“The party hopes that this occasion will add to its legitimacy and rally support at a time of internal and external challenges,” Adam Ni, China researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, told the Agence Franc-Presse.

US trade war negotiations have dragged on, and African swine fever has raced through the country’s pig supply, sending pork prices soaring.

But the major headache is Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protesters plan to grab the spotlight from Beijing on Tuesday with their own rally against what they see as the erosion of their special freedoms.

The semi-autonomous city has been embroiled for months in the worst unrest since Britain returned the financial hub to China in 1997, with police and hardcore protesters trading tear gas for petrol bombs.

In an apparent olive branch, Xi vowed Monday to continue to “fully and faithfully implement” the one country, two systems policy, under which Hong Kong residents enjoy freedoms unseen on the mainland.

But Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam was invited to the national day celebration, highlighting Beijing’s continued support for the under-fire leader.

Police fanned out across Hong Kong on Tuesday in a bid to deter pro-democracy protests as the city marked communist China’s 70th birthday, with local officials watching a flag-raising ceremony behind closed doors because of security concerns.

Authorities ramped up security checks ahead of the anniversary and announced the closure of more than a dozen subway stations as officers conducted stop and searches in the streets and on public transport.

The international finance hub is on edge as protesters vow to overshadow Beijing’s festivities, stepping up their nearly four months of protests pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

Sunday witnessed some of the most sustained clashes in weeks between police and hardcore protesters.

Activists have called for people to hit the streets for a “Day of Grief’—although police banned a proposed rally through the city.

In a vivid illustration of the political insecurity now coursing through Hong Kong, city officials watched a morning harbourside flag-raising ceremony from the safety of the nearby convention centre.

Since Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to China by Britain, officials had always attended the ceremony outside, even during torrential downpours.

But popular protests that erupted in June have made it increasingly risky for officials to appear in public.

AFP

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