Hong Kong leaders incoming and outgoing attended a flag-raising ceremony on Friday marking the 25th anniversary of the return of Chinese rule to the city, which in recent years has come under stricter control by the Communist Party.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is making his first trip outside the mainland in two and a half years, did not attend the ceremony, although he will attend the new government’s inauguration later Friday.
Upon his arrival on Thursday, Xi told well-wishers that Hong Kong had overcome many challenges over the years and was “reborn from the ashes” with “strong vitality,” an apparent reference to the 2019 pro-democracy protests, which followed. Through a sweeping crackdown on dissent that changed the economic center previously known for its political and civil liberties.
Among the hundreds in attendance at the flag-raising ceremony were city leader Carrie Lam, former leaders Leung Chun-ying and Donald Tsang, and incoming leader Jun Lee, who will become the city’s new chief executive later Friday.
The flag-raising ceremony was held amid strong winds, and police officers carrying the Chinese and Hong Kong flags marched to the Golden Bauhinia Square to celebrate the Chinese “goose walking” style, replacing the British-style march. The guests stood intently while the Chinese national anthem was played.
Xi last visited Hong Kong in 2017 for the July 1 celebrations, during which he warned that there would be no tolerance for any activities seen as threatening China’s sovereignty and stability.
China’s ruling Communist Party viewed the most famous pro-democracy protests of 2019 as such a threat, and Xi in remarks Thursday night praised Lam for ending the chaos that has gripped the city and for ensuring that only “patriots” will rule Hong Kong. .
Since the protests, Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have drafted a national security law that has since been used to arrest dozens of activists, media professionals and democracy advocates. introducing a more “national” curriculum in schools; and renew election laws to keep opposition politicians out of the city legislature. The changes eliminated dissenting voices in the city and prompted many to leave.