World: Hong Kong protests: The date which has Beijing on the edge - PressFrom - US
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WorldHong Kong protests: The date which has Beijing on the edge

05:30  15 september  2019
05:30  15 september  2019 Source:   cnn.com

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Police carrying riot shields and firing tear gas moved in shortly after midnight to clear protesters , who hours earlier, swarmed into the legislature's main building. (July 1) AP, AP.

After several months of pro -democracy protests in Hong Kong Hong Kong still enjoys freedoms not seen on mainland China - but critics say they are on the decline. Some elected members have even been disbarred after Beijing issued a controversial legal ruling that effectively disqualified them.

Hong Kong protests: The date which has Beijing on the edge© Feng Li/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images A float takes part in a parade to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 2009 in Beijing.

For months, October 1 has loomed over the mass pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, as a whispered deadline for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to take action to end the unrest.

On that day, Beijing will be hoping to project an image of national strength and unity with a military parade through the city to mark 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China.

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Pro - Beijing and pro -democracy protesters clashed during a rally in Hong Kong [Isaac Lawrence/AFP]. The protests across the city, which were originally sparked by a bill that would allow Beijing to extradite residents to the mainland, have often ended in violence, usually between

With the main Hong Kong protest site occupied by pro -democracy activists cleared, the BBC's China editor Carrie Gracie asks if Beijing has scored a victory. But the only real victory Beijing can claim in the entire episode is not in Hong Kong but at home on the mainland where, barring a few brave souls

It's a significant milestone that China's leaders will not want overshadowed by protests in Hong Kong, which have grown in intensity since mass demonstrations began in June.

But what action the party might take is unclear and highly debated, with some even saying the greater threat will be after the anniversary, if protesters disrupt or distract from the day's celebrations and embarrass the country's Communist leaders.

The Hong Kong government has said there is no such deadline for action by Beijing to end the protests. In audio leaked to Reuters, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam can be heard reassuring business leaders that "they and ourselves have no expectations that we could clear up this thing before the 1st of October."

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Beijing ’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) provided a partial Based on the current situation, with the extradition bill having been withdrawn, Hong Kong protesters still Civil Human Rights Front of Hong Kong (CHRF), the organizers of the protests during the Umbrella Movement in

Protests have raged in Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill, which would allow British Prime Minister Theresa May reiterated that it was "vital" that Beijing respects Hong Kong 's Hong Kong 's riot police have retaken the legislative building. After clearing protesters with tear gas and

But the whispers have continued, with no clear consensus on what October 1 might mean for Hong Kong.

Some predict that a military crackdown before October is inevitable, as Beijing seeks to save face. Others say that wanting to present a calm, united front in two weeks' time is the only thing holding Beijing back.

"The Chinese Communist Party will not allow any sign of a 'step down' around the moment of the 70th anniversary ... They will do everything to make sure the situation stays under their control," said 30-year-old protester David Wong.

Xi's moment to shine

Every country has important anniversaries or celebrations, but the Chinese Communist Party heavily politicizes dates such as this and uses them as opportunities to provide justification for the party's ongoing mandate to govern.

For instance, 2021 will be the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party. It's also the self-imposed deadline for President Xi to deliver some of his signature achievements, such as eradicating all poverty and raise living standards to new heights.

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Beijing ’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office had blasted Britain, along with the US and the EU, for their position on the Hong Kong protests on Tuesday. The agency demanded “the relevant countries to immediately stop making false statements and actions that undermine China’s national security and

Protests prompt new calls for Hong Kong ’s leader to resign. The clashes between the police and protesters fueled a fresh Tensions were high on the campus of Hong Kong University on Thursday night after two pro -democracy lawmakers were called to a Beijing has dismissed criticism of the law.

The 70th anniversary on October 1 will similarly be used by the government to highlight how far China has come economically and militarily since the party took power in 1949.

In the last 20 years alone, China's wealth per adult has quadrupled, while its GDP has gone from just $150 billion in 1978 to over $12 trillion in 2018. Just over 30 million people are still living in poverty in China, down from 770 million 40 years ago.

On the day itself, Xi is expected to address the nation and oversee a military parade through the streets of Beijing, followed by fireworks and cultural performances across the country.

The celebrations in Hong Kong are expected to be muted in comparison. In the recording of Lam leaked to Reuters, she said that, given the recent "disruptions," "we are going for a modest but solemn type of celebrations on the first of October."

The festivities also come at an important time for President Xi who is embroiled in a trade war with the United States, which has reverberated through global economy.

Beijing has gone to vast lengths to ensure that the 70th celebrations go off without a hitch.

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Hong Kong is in the midst of change, as China seeks to gain a stronger political grip on the special administrative region, which puts Recent government proposals to extend Beijing ’s power to Hong Kong have caused outrage amongst locals and outrage has lead to large scale protests around

Pro - Beijing activists have become more visible in Hong Kong in recent weeks. They staged several demonstrations in malls, mimicking the tactics originally used by the anti-government protesters . Their rallies, however, received much less coverage in the Western mainstream media than the ones

Security has been tightened across the capital of Beijing and state media is promoting positive news stories about the government's achievements. On television, popular dramas have even been banned in favor of patriotic films.

In this atmosphere, headline-grabbing protests against the government in one of their most well-known cities will frustratingly complicate their narrative of a united and powerful country, happy under the Communist Party's leadership.

What can they do though?

But just three weeks out, it isn't entirely clear what the Chinese government can do to prevent protesters from disrupting October 1 celebrations in Hong Kong.

The protests have shown no signs of easing despite the Hong Kong government's promise to withdraw the controversial China extradition bill that brought people onto the streets back in June.

Hong Kong protests: The date which has Beijing on the edge© Feng Li/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images Chinese tanks rumble pass Tiananmen Square during a massive parade to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 2009 in Beijing.

Some have speculated that Lam's decision to announce the long-awaited withdrawal of the extradition bill was an attempt to ease tensions ahead of the important date. Many doubt that it will work.

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A Hong Kong protest figurehead has called on Washington to make the Hong Kong unrest a part of trade negotiations with Beijing , suggesting the Wong has rallied behind a 2015 US bill, reintroduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio in June, that envisages sanctions for Chinese officials

Beijing ’s influence over Hong Kong has grown in recent years, as activists have been jailed and pro -democracy The protests were peaceful until midnight, when police and demonstrators clashed after attempts to disperse some remaining protesters from the area outside the legislative offices.

Protesters still have four key demands they say must be met before the unrest will end, including greater democracy in the Asian financial hub.

In recent weeks, police have taken a hardline approach against violent protesters, arresting demonstrators in greater numbers and breaking up even small gatherings.

But with more protests planned for this weekend, neither approach appears to have been successful so far.

With no more concessions likely in the short term, the government could look to impose greater restrictions on protesters to try to pacify the city ahead of October 1.

There have already been attempts to close down public transport stations close to planned protests, although it hasn't proven successful as demonstrators have found alternate modes of transport to get around the restrictions.

The possible deployment of Chinese troops on Hong Kong streets is regularly hinted at by Beijing. Officials have suggested the protests carry "terrorist" overtones and in the past two months, Chinese paramilitary police have held large drills across the border in the city of Shenzhen.

But any military intervention appears to have been ruled out for now, according to the leaked recording from Lam.

Little wonder, as it would be disastrous for not just Hong Kong but China more broadly. Investors would flee at the first sign of any military boots hitting the streets, something Beijing can't risk as the domestic economy slows.

As their options dwindle, Beijing may be forced to grin and bear a Hong Kong spoiler to their national day, but with the Communist Party's pride at stake, any over-the-top October 1 protests could be met with an escalation from the government.

After all, even minor attacks on the symbols of the Chinese government have been enough to provoke the fury in Beijing and state-run media.

When protesters removed a Chinese national flag in the shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui and threw it in Victoria Harbor, state-run media reacted with fury. State-run tabloid Global Times called for "justice (to) be served."

Beijing won't forget quickly if Hong Kong embarrasses it during the Communist Party's moment of triumph.

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