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Hong Kongers react to Xi’s speech

#Hong #Kongers #react #Xis #speech

As Chinese leader Xi Jinping left Hong Kong on Friday after a rare visit to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain, reactions to his speech ranged from “reassuring” to “delusional”.

The Chinese Communist Party places great importance on anniversaries, and the trip provided Xi with an opportunity to emphasize China’s authority over Hong Kong after three years of political upheaval there.

“Xi’s speech and language reiterated the political message to Hong Kong since the national security law,” political scientist Kenneth Chan of Hong Kong Baptist University told AFP.

“Beijing now exercises total control of the city through the Loyalists.”

Ever since China imposed a national security law on the city following massive pro-democracy protests that gripped the city in 2019, dissent has been stifled in the once politically vibrant city.

Xi’s insistence that democracy is thriving despite years of political crackdown has been met with contempt from those most affected by Beijing’s increasing grip on the city.

Ted Hui, a former opposition lawmaker who fled abroad in 2020 after being arrested several times, said Xi’s remark that “true democracy” only started after the handover was “a lie”.

“As early as the 1970s and 1980s, Hong Kong people had formed our own democracy movement and started to develop our civil society,” he told AFP.

He said the city never had full democracy under British rule but that “we have now lost both the formality and the substance of democracy, particularly following the implementation of the National Security Act”.

One of his former colleagues, Emily Lau, said that “true democracy never began in Hong Kong – neither before nor after 1997”.

She agreed that the city has now “lost both freedoms and democracy.”

– ‘Clear and solid’ –

After saying goodbye to Xi at a high-speed train station, Hong Kong’s new chief executive John Lee said the visit was “inspirational”.

Xi repeatedly said that one country, two systems – the governance model agreed by Britain and China, under which the city would retain some autonomy and freedoms – is working well and does not need to be changed.

Lee said Xi’s remarks are a “very clear and very solid” statement.

The sentiment was shared by the Hong Kong Bar Association, which issued a statement saying Xi’s “clear assurances and inspirational guidance on Hong Kong’s well-being and our integration into our country’s overall development are encouraging.”

Hui was scathing about the notion that the governance model was working well.

“I think it is illusory to say that Hong Kong can continue to maintain its unique advantages under the current system,” he said. “Because Hong Kong’s uniqueness used to be in its freedom, its autonomy in policy-making.”

On Hong Kong’s streets, wet from thunderstorms that battered the city all day Friday, 46-year-old Jonathan Yeung said Xi’s position that one country, two systems had no reason to change was “ridiculous.”

“He was behind the biggest changes,” he said.

“(Xi’s) speech was just a to-do list for John Lee. I don’t think he appealed to Hong Kongers like me.”

A jewelry shop owner surnamed Wan, 44, said he liked that Xi had set out clear priorities for the next government.

He agreed with Xi’s opinion that Hong Kong “cannot afford to fall into chaos.”

“The last few years have been very tough, regardless of politics and profession,” Wan said.

In his speech, Xi placed special emphasis on young people, saying that the authorities “must strengthen their national pride and sense of ownership.”

A man named Lee, a 19-year-old university student, was unfazed by Xi’s admonitions.

“When he says there’s more focus on youth, it just means there’s a more nationalist agenda being pushed in the schools,” he told AFP.

“He doesn’t care what young people themselves want.”

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