Xi Visits Hong Kong Reworked by Raids: Dwell Updates

Recognition…Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

As Xi Jinping, China’s leader, visits Hong Kong to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Britain’s surrender, he arrives in a city that has changed a lot in three years as millions emerge in the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule in decades walked the street.

Mr. Xi’s ruling Communist Party suppressed this challenge by tightening its grip. Authorities arrested thousands of protesters and activists, imposed a national security law that silenced dissent, and rewrote election rules to bar critics of Beijing.

“This is a significant journey for him,” said John P. Burns, professor emeritus of politics at the University of Hong Kong. “Of course this is about celebrating the 25th anniversary and all that, but it also declares victory over the pan-democratic opposition and its supporters.”

On Friday, Mr. Xi installed a hand-picked former security official as the city’s next leader. He had earlier met with lawmakers selected under Beijing’s electoral reform to ensure only “patriots” could hold office in Hong Kong.

“Political power must be in the hands of patriots,” Mr Xi said in a speech on Friday after overseeing the new government’s swearing-in ceremony. “No country or region of the world will allow unpatriotic or even treacherous or treacherous forces and figures to take power.”

Officials from Hong Kong and China attended a brief ceremony on Friday morning where a police honor guard raised the flags of China and Hong Kong to celebrate the anniversary. A strong wind was blowing and the sky was overcast and threatened to rain. A government helicopter with a large Chinese flag followed by another with a smaller Hong Kong flag flew down Victoria Harbor as the 8am ceremony took place, followed by a fireboat spraying water from its hoses.

But the pomp and ceremony was in stark contrast to the relative calm of the streets under a heavy security presence. Groups of police officers patrolled near the site of the ceremony, and lines of police cars lined the entrances of several subway stations. For many Hong Kong residents, the anniversary of the handover and Mr Xi’s visit held little meaning alongside a day off.

“The central government doesn’t have to do much for Hong Kong. Just let Hong Kong take care of things itself. It’s a free economy, right? It wasn’t very governed before,” said Joeson Kwak, a 33-year-old interior designer who had breakfast in Wanchai District. “I don’t feel anything special today. I’m glad I don’t have to go to work today.”

Mr Xi’s visit is both a message intended to strengthen Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong to the city’s 7.5 million residents and a message of defiance to Western governments who have denounced his actions. The United States, Britain and other nations have accused China of breaking its promises to allow Hong Kong to maintain its individual rights protections for 50 years under an agreement known as one country, two systems.

Hong Kong’s subjugation also has personal significance for Mr. Xi. It will help burnish his standing among the Communist Party elite at a pivotal moment as he seeks a third five-year term, which he is expected to complete later this year.

“We can expect him to highlight the success of one country, two systems at the October convention,” said Sonny Lo, a Hong Kong political commentator.

For local activists, July 1st was an anniversary of important demonstrations. But a combination of pandemic restrictions and the political crackdown has largely eliminated such gatherings. A left-wing group, the League of Social Democrats, had continued to mark key dates with small demonstrations of just four people, technically permissible under social distancing rules.

But after visits by the National Security Police, the group announced this week that it would not hold a protest on Friday. Members of the group have been under constant surveillance and their organization has been threatened with closure if they try to demonstrate, said Avery Ng, the group’s general secretary.

“It’s like China,” he said.

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