Pro-democracy activists protest in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong on October 1, 2021, as China celebrates its National Day. Photograph:( AFP )
The ceremony in Hong Kong's Golden Bauhinia Square came amid a string of anti-government protests
On Friday, Hong Kong celebrated the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China with a flag-raising ceremony and reception hosted by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as a small group of activists took to the streets surrounded by police.
Speaking at the reception, Lam said that, "Hong Kong has truly embarked on the right track of the 'one country, two systems' policy under the dual protection of Hong Kong's National Security Law and the electoral system reform,".
The ceremony in Hong Kong's Golden Bauhinia Square came amid a string of anti-government protests. People have been taking to the streets against Beijing’s National Security Law and the Chinese government's crackdown on dissent.
A public broadcaster RTHK, citing sources familiar with the matter reported that in readiness for possible protests during the October 1 festivities, more than 8,000 officers have been deployed throughout the city.
A small group of pro-democracy protestors attempted to march in the streets, but were surrounded by police officers.
One of the activists was quoted by Reuters as saying "I believe Hong Kong should be the only place in China where we can express opinions outside the mainstream. Our appeal is simple: give rights back to the people, implement universal suffrage throughout the country and release all political prisoners. Today is the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. We demand that the Xi Jinping regime fulfill Article 2 of the Chinese Constitution, "Rights belong to the people", and we urge it to implement universal suffrage throughout the country and release all political prisoners."
In 2019, Hong Kong was ravaged by large and often violent democracy protests. China responded by enacting a new national security law that criminalized much dissent and launched a campaign against those deemed disloyal in the city.
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The law has led to the arrest of more than 90 people, as well as the dissolution of dozens of civil society organizations, including unions and parties. The most recent such dissolution is of The Hong Kong Alliance, a pro-democracy group that organised three decades of vigils commemorating the victims of Beijing's Tiananmen Square crackdown.
United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken also congratulated the country. A statement published on the US Department of State website says "On behalf of the United States of America, I would like to extend our congratulations to the people of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the country celebrates its National Day on October 1."
"As the United States seeks to work cooperatively to solve the challenges we all face, we wish the people of the PRC peace, happiness, and prosperity over the coming year."
(With inputs from agencies)