China Marks Communist Party Centennial With Warning From Xi

As tensions rise in Hong Kong, Thursday marked the 24th anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China, as well as one year after Beijing enacted sweeping national security legislation in response to months of turmoil and challenges to its authority.

Beijing has been in a festive mood, with patriotic displays, military flyovers, and cannon salutes to commemorate the foundation of the Communist Party 100 years ago, in sharp contrast to the attitude in Hong Kong.

Foreign countries seeking to coerce China would “have their heads smashed” and will be confronted with a “huge wall of steel,” according to Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking in front of tens of thousands in Tiananmen Square.

Xi claimed there was no place for so-called “sanctimonious preaching” in a combative hour-long speech.

China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong also pledged an “unwavering” commitment to reunification with Taiwan, which China regards as a rebellious province. “No one should doubt the Chinese people’s determination, will, or capacity to preserve their national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi added.

The importance of security and territorial integrity in Beijing is not lost on Hong Kong residents, who have seen police carry out a massive crackdown in the city in the year after the security legislation was passed. In mid-2019, peaceful mass protests against Beijing’s expansion erupted in the Asian financial capital, drawing worldwide attention. However, as the protests turned more violent over months, Beijing became increasingly eager to portray them as a Western-backed revolution creating the foundation for the security law.

Any sign of opposition in Hong Kong now looks to be handled with a heavy hand. Because of COVID-19 limitations, police claim they can’t allow individuals to congregate, although non-political meetings appear to be permitted in other instances. On July 1, Hong Kong’s malls were crowded.

Amnesty International stated on Wednesday that the national security law has created a “human rights emergency” in Hong Kong and that the city-state is “on a fast track to become a police state.”

Beijing has also promoted John Lee, Hong Kong’s senior security officer, to the city’s number two leader, purportedly as a reward for implementing the security law.

Beijing said the security law would only be used to target a “small minority” when it was originally adopted, but activists believe the law is now being weaponized to completely eliminate the opposition, stamp out dissent, and limit the city’s liberties.

The bill has shattered Hong Kong’s political scene and sent shivers across the city. More than 100 individuals have been detained and others have been prosecuted as a result of the law’s provisions, including nearly the entire pro-democracy group of MPs and media billionaire Jimmy Lai. Apple Daily, Lai’s newspaper, was forced to close last month when its editorial team was detained and its assets were blocked.

President Biden issued a statement on the day Apple Daily shuttered, stating, “It is a sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and across the world.”

“Beijing has insisted on leveraging its authority to repress independent media and muzzle dissenting viewpoints through arrests, threats, and pushing through a National Security Law that penalizes free speech,” the statement added.

The majority of the key people who have come to characterize Hong Kong’s democratic movement have either departed the city or are imprisoned. Albert Ho, who talked with ABC News just days before being sentenced to jail in May, is one of them. “You know, when Hong Kong is suffering such a setback and so many of my friends are already behind bars,” Ho added, “it’s simply a question of time.”

On China’s National Day, October 1, 2019, Albert Ho was sentenced to 18 months in jail for encouraging others to join in an unlawful gathering, which eventually turned violent.

The judge who sentenced Ho and nine other pro-democracy activists claimed the heavier punishment was “necessary in maintaining public order” and served as a “deterrent.”

For many, the only option has been to flee, with the United Kingdom and other nations providing a more straightforward road to citizenship for some Hong Kong residents.

Hong Kongers would have no issue living in the city, according to Ronny Tong, a key advisor to Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam, as long as they accept the reality that the territory is part of China. “If you understand the one nation, two systems concept, which entails Hong Kong being a unique location inside China, and that we are a part of China, that is a truth that you cannot alter. It’s a truth you can’t change, but it’s also a fact you must respect “Tong remarked.

“The second thing I’d want to say is that I trust the courts,” Tong continued.

lgnews-China-Marks-CommunistHowever, there are now concerns over whether the integrity of Hong Kong’s judiciary, which is founded on the English common law system, would be jeopardized.

Zheng Yanxiong, China’s security chief, has stated that the city’s courts should be governed by Beijing. “The power of [Hong Kong’s] independent judiciary is granted by the National People’s Congress. It must clearly demonstrate national intent and national interest, otherwise, the legal basis for the authorization will be revoked “Zheng said.

Zheng’s remarks come as the national security cases from the previous year begin to be heard in Hong Kong courts.

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