Sat, Jul 02, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Thousands protest in HK as China tensions simmer

UNNERVED:The disappearance of five booksellers over the past year has raised fears that CCP leaders in Beijing are eroding the so-called ‘one country, two systems’ formula

Reuters, HONG KONG

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong yesterday take part in a march on the day marking the 19th anniversary of the territory’s handover to Chinese sovereignty from British rule.

Photo: Reuters

Thousands of Hong Kong residents yesterday marched in protest on the 19th anniversary of the territory’s return to Chinese rule, as tensions simmer against Chinese authorities over the abductions of several Hong Kong booksellers.

Some waved banners criticizing Beijing over alleged cross-border abductions as the act of a “totalitarian” regime, as well as calling for the release of leading dissidents.

“This is a very grave threat to the safety of Hong Kong residents, that an unknown force is spying on people,” pro-democracy lawmaker Cyd Ho (何秀蘭) said at the rally. “The Hong Kong government has to follow up with the central government on what is really happening behind the scenes.”

The territory has been unnerved in the past year by the disappearances of five booksellers who specialized in works critical of Chinese leaders.

One of the men, Lam Wing-kei (林榮基), who was detained for eight months by Chinese agents and released last month, said Beijing was “violating Hong Kong’s rights” through illegal cross-border enforcement operations.

The tactics have raised fears that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rulers in Beijing are eroding the so-called “one country, two systems” formula that has granted Hong Kong a high degree of freedom and autonomy since its 1997 return to Chinese rule.

China has denied any wrongdoing.

Lam, who had been due to lead the march that each year draws thousands of people, withdrew at the last minute, citing safety concerns after being followed by two strangers, a lawmaker said.

“He feels increasingly concerned about his personal safety,” Democratic Party Legislator Albert Ho (何俊仁) said.

Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Director Wang Guangya (王光亞) said the booksellers had “destroyed” the one country, two systems formula by publishing books that are banned in mainland China.

However, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), speaking in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to mark the CCP’s 95th anniversary, yesterday said that “no matter what the difficulties and challenges, our confidence and determination toward one country, two systems will not waver.”

Xi said that Hong Kong would continue to enjoy a high degree of autonomy and Beijing would strictly adhere to the law.

Yesterday’s protests are considered a barometer of public sentiment toward Beijing ahead of territorial legislative elections in September.

A group of activists who advocate Hong Kong independence from China are planning an evening “black mask” protest outside the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

A 79-day Umbrella movement in late 2014 demanding Beijing allow full democracy in Hong Kong brought chaos to the streets.

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