wnol.info January 19 2018

Tensions high in Hong Kong ahead of milestone Chinese handover anniversary

January 19 2018, 05:29 | Irvin Gilbert

Taiwan scrambles as Chinese carrier passes en route to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Beijing Liaoning Taiwan Strait Chinese President Liberation Army Navy Xinhua Taiwan China

Storm clouds loomed over Hong Kong as tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters took to the streets, giving way to a downpour as the day wore on that deterred many from joining the throngs of dissent.

Many Hong Kong residents, anxious about growing encroachment by Beijing as the financial hub marks 20 years since its return to China, are rushing to secure British passports as a safety net in the case of social unrest or the erosion of civil liberties.

President Xi Jinping today warned against "impermissible" challenges to China's authority over Hong Kong and said any attempt to question Beijing's sovereignty in the former British colony would cross a "red line".

Shortly before Xi greeted his soldiers, several of the most prominent faces of the city's pro-democracy movement left the police station where they had been held on Wednesday.

The wave of Chinese mainland businesses that have headed south in the past 20 years, flooding Hong Kong's stock market, sending market capitalization to record highs, has led to a historic remaking of the local bourse.

It also specifies universal suffrage as an eventual goal.

During his speech, Xi portrayed the "one country, two systems" formula, which ensures Hong Kong will retain its ways of life and freedoms after the handover, as a "new idea, new path" for the global community to tackle similar sovereignty issues.

When Hong Kong was first returned to China, China watchers assessed that the process would liberalize mainland China.

The CBC's Elaine Chau came to Canada from Hong Kong with her family in 1992. "So the carpet, so to speak, has been pulled from under Hong Kongers' feet", said barrister and former democratic lawmaker Alan Leong. The possibility of another anti-Beijing rally, such as that of 2014, when young people and other residents occupied Hong Kong's center, can not be ruled out.

During his visit Xi has pledged support for Hong Kong and assured that its semi-autonomous system of government is intact.

Ahead of a flag raising ceremony Sunday, a small group of activists linked to the pro-democracy opposition sought to march on the venue carrying a replica coffin symbolizing the death of the territory's civil liberties. On Saturday, she formally became the city's first female chief executive and fourth leader since its transfer from British rule.

In a lengthy speech made at Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥)'s swearing-in ceremony as the fifth chief executive since Hong Kong was handed over to China by Britain in 1997, the Chinese leader reassured the success of the "one country, two systems" rule implemented two decades ago as serving the interests of the country as well as its people.

Lam, speaking in Mandarin instead of the Cantonese dialect widely used in Hong Kong and southern China, said she wanted to create a harmonious society and bring down astronomical housing prices that have also sown social discord. " The "two-country system" is eroding, sometimes subtly, sometimes much more direct, but the fact is that China is not respecting it and will not survive much longer", says Chan Kin-man, Professor Of Sociology and co-founder of the movement Central Occupy, to THE WORLD. People marched with signs criticizing the Chinese president, while others called for the end of the Communist Party of China.

Meanwhile, the biggest appearance of all in Hong Kong this week has been the arrival of Xi Jinping.

"People are anxious. We understand that embassies all over Hong Kong are getting lots of queries from people seeking citizenship", said one senior diplomat at a major consulate.

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