Xi Celebrates Hong Kong's 'Return to the Motherland'

Chinese leader defends crackdown as territory marks 25th anniversary of handover
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 1, 2022 11:08 AM CDT
Xi Celebrates Hong Kong's 'Return to the Motherland'
A flag raising ceremony is held at the Golden Bauhinia Square to mark the 25th anniversary of the former British colony's return to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong, Friday, July 1, 2022.   (AP Photo/Magnum Chan, Pool)

China’s leader Xi Jinping marked the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return in a speech Friday emphasizing Beijing’s comprehensive control over the once-British colony under his vision of the "one country, two systems" framework. He also sought to counter criticism that the political and civic freedoms promised for the next quarter-century have been all but erased under Chinese rule, per the AP. Xi praised the city for overcoming "violent social unrest"—a reference to the 2019 massive pro-democracy movement that was followed by a Beijing-led crackdown that has snuffed out dissent and shut down independent media.

Xi's two-day trip to Hong Kong is his first outside of mainland China since the pandemic took hold in January 2020. "Regardless of whether it was the international financial crisis, the coronavirus pandemic or violent social unrest, nothing has stopped Hong Kong’s progress" since its "return to the motherland," Xi said. Since the 2019 protests, authorities have used a sweeping national security law to arrest scores of activists, media figures, and democracy supporters. They have also revamped election laws to keep opposition politicians who are deemed not patriotic enough out of the city’s legislature. The changes have all but eliminated dissenting voices and have driven many to leave the city.

US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said that China’s policies toward Hong Kong, including the implementation of the national security law, have "shaken the institutions, rules, and systems that had been the basis of international confidence in Hong Kong." “We call on the PRC to act in accordance with the international obligations it willingly undertook,” Watson said. Xi also officiated the swearing-in ceremony of Hong Kong's new leader John Lee, a former security official who oversaw the crackdown on dissent. Hong Kong used to see large pro-democracy marches on July 1 but the streets were quiet this year, with a heavy police presence, CNN reports. (Read more Hong Kong stories.)

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