Hong Kong on edge ahead of China’s 70th anniversary
Strikes, protests planned; high-profile activists arrested after night of clashes
HONG KONG (Reuters) — Hong Kong’s metro stations and roads re-opened on Monday after a chaotic weekend that saw police fire water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who set fires and threw petrol bombs outside government offices and across central districts.
The Chinese territory is on edge ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Tuesday, with authorities eager to avoid scenes that could embarrass the central government in Beijing.
A huge clean-up was under way after roads, shops and buildings across the financial center were daubed in graffiti, windows in government buildings smashed and parts of pavements uprooted by protesters during the weekend’s demonstrations.
Some underground stations were vandalized and streets were littered with debris from roadblocks and the charred remains of fires.
Two prominent democracy activists, actor Gregory Wong and Ventus Lau, were arrested for their involvement in protests on Monday, according to a representative for the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the organizer of previous mass protests.
Hong Kong police did not immediately confirm the arrests.
CHRF said on Monday authorities had rejected a permit for a march planned for Tuesday from Victoria Park in the bustling tourist district of Causeway Bay to Chater Road, next to government headquarters, based on security concerns.
Protestors are expected to proceed with demonstrations across Hong Kong regardless.
The city’s leader, Carrie Lam, the focus of the unrest, made a last-minute decision to mark the People’s Republic anniversary in Beijing. The embattled leader had sent out invitations “requesting the pleasure of your company” at a flag-raising ceremony and reception in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Security was tight around the Convention Centre where the ceremony is due to take place, with roads closed and riot police on guard. A series of strikes are planned on Monday and multiple demonstrations are scheduled on Tuesday.
It was not clear whether Lam was summoned to Beijing due to the escalation in the violence on the weekend. The government said Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung would stand in for her at the anniversary ceremony.
The unrest over the weekend saw some of the worst and most widespread violence in more than three months of anti-government demonstrations in the Asian financial hub.
The weekend marked the fifth anniversary of the start of the “Umbrella” protests — a series of pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014 that failed to wrestle concessions from Beijing .
The latest clashes began mid-afternoon on Sunday and continued late into the night, as thousands of masked protesters roamed the streets, facing off against riot police amid plumes of tear gas and raging fires.
Xi bows to Mao
BEIJING (AFP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping paid his respects to Chairman Mao Zedong’s embalmed body Monday in a rare gesture ahead of China’s celebration of 70 years of Communist rule.
Xi and other top Chinese officials visited Mao’s mausoleum — located in the heart of Beijing in Tiananmen Square — and bowed three times to the late leader’s statue, reported official news agency Xinhua.
He also paid respects to the remains of Mao, whose embalmed body is kept in a glass display at the memorial hall.
The last time a Chinese leader bowed to the statue of the “Great Helmsman” was six years ago, when Xi commemorated Mao’s 120th birthday.
The move to honor the founder of the People’s Republic of China comes as the country readies itself for a day of tightly-choreographed festivities, including a massive military parade and the release of 70,000 doves.
The anniversary is meant to showcase China’s extraordinary rise from the ravages of war and famine to a modern, powerful nation state whose economic and military muscle is viewed by many with increasing concern.
But the celebration comes in a very bad year for the Chinese president.
Protestors display anti-China placards in Hong Kong, Sunday. Riot police fired tear gas after a large crowd of protesters at a Hong Kong shopping district ignored warnings to disperse in a second straight day of clashes, sparking fears of more violence ahead of China’s National Day.
Chinese President Xi Jinping bows at the steps of the Monument to the People’s Heroes during a ceremony to mark Martyr’s Day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Monday. Xi led other top officials in paying respects to the founder of the communist state Mao Zedong ahead of a massive celebration of the People’s Republic’s 70th anniversary.