As Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of its handover from Britain, he arrives in a city that has been largely transformed three years ago when millions took to the streets in the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule.
Mr Ji’s ruling Communist Party tightened its grip and fended off the challenge. Authorities arrested thousands of protesters and activists, imposed a national security law that silenced dissent and rewrote election rules to silence critics of Beijing.
“It was a remarkable journey for him,” said John P. Burns said. “Of course, it’s about celebrating the 25th anniversary and all, but he’s declaring victory over the pan-democratic opposition and their supporters.”
On Friday Mr. Xi appointed an elected former security official as the city’s next leader. He earlier met with elected lawmakers after Beijing’s election overhaul ensured only “patriots” could take office in Hong Kong.
“Political power should be in the hands of the patriots,” said Mr. Ji said in a speech on Friday after overseeing the swearing-in ceremony of the new government. “No country or region in the world will allow unpatriotic or treacherous or treacherous forces and figures to seize power.”
Hong Kong and Chinese officials attended a brief ceremony on Friday morning, where a police honor guard raised the flags of China and Hong Kong to mark the anniversary. The wind was strong, the sky was overcast and rain threatened. As the ceremony took place at 8am, a government helicopter with a large Chinese flag, followed by another helicopter with a smaller Hong Kong flag, flew over Victoria Harbour, followed by a fire department boat spraying water from its hoses.
But the pomp and ceremony is in stark contrast to the relative calm of the streets with a pronounced security presence. Squads of police patrolled near the venue, and police vans lined the entrances of several subway stations. For many residents of Hong Kong, the handover anniversary and Mr. Xi’s visit has little significance other than a day off.
“The central government doesn’t have to do much for Hong Kong. Let Hong Kong sort things out on its own. Isn’t this a free economy? It wasn’t under much management before,” said Joseon Kwok, a 33-year-old interior design contractor who was having breakfast in Wanchai District. “Today is nothing special for me. I’m glad I don’t have to go to work today.
Mr. Xi’s visit is a message aimed at reinforcing Beijing’s rule over Hong Kong to the city’s 7.5 million residents, and a counter to Western governments that have condemned his crackdown. The United States, Britain and other countries have accused China of breaking promises to allow Hong Kong to safeguard individual rights for 50 years under the One Country, Two Systems arrangement.
Subduing Hong Kong Mr. Shi also has personal significance. It will help burnish his standing among Communist Party elites at a crucial juncture as he seeks a third five-year term.
“He can be expected to highlight the victory of one country, two systems at the party conference in October,” Hong Kong political commentator Sony Lo said.
For local activists, July 1 is the anniversary of the major demonstrations. But a combination of pandemic restrictions and political repression has largely eliminated such gatherings. A left-wing group, the League of Social Democrats, regularly marked significant dates with small four-person demonstrations, which are technically allowed under social distancing rules.
But after visits by national security police, the group announced it would not hold a Friday protest this week. The group’s secretary-general, Avery Ng, said the group’s general secretary, Avery Ng, said members of the group were under constant surveillance and their organization was threatened with closure if they tried to demonstrate.
“It’s like China,” he said.