Hardline stance towards radical pro-democracy Hong Kongers could mean more conflict

Hong Kong handover 1997

"Any attempt to endanger China's sovereignty and security. or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses a red line", Xi said, in a nationalistic speech which emphasized Beijing's control over the city, now a special administrative region of China.

The two and 24 other activists staged a protest against Xi's visit to the Bauhinia Monument, the golden statue that was once given by the central government to Hong Kong to commemorate his return. Past marches have attracted tens of thousands of marchers but this year Xi's trip has given the event a sharper focus.

One of the abducted booksellers, Lee Bo, drew global attention because he was a dual Hong Kong and British citizen, prompting London to rebuke China for a "breach" of Hong Kong's law.

Social worker Ceci Chan, in her 30s, said life was "difficult" for Hong Kongers and that Xi should not have hidden behind security barricades if he wanted to connect with residents. Police estimated that 14,500 took part, down about 5,000 from their estimate a year ago.

Among those said by the group to have been arrested was Joshua Wong, the leader of the so-called umbrella protest movement. He was later released.

One protester carried a cardboard cutout of Xi holding a yellow umbrella - symbol of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement which brought parts of the city to a standstill. "Patriotism is the last resort of thugs", he said after his release.

A proposal to include patriotic education in Hong Kong schools met with huge protests in 2012 and has since been shelved. The official transcript of Xi's speech was printed in the mainland's simplified characters instead of Hong Kong's traditional complex characters.

Many young people have also realized that Hong Kong would not have real democracy under the "one country, two systems" model, he said, adding that the trend of young people establishing their own identity while rejecting a Chinese identity would not stop.

During his three-day "tour of inspection", Xi has remained virtually isolated from the population, with the most sensitive areas surrounded by barricades, the presence of the discontented restricted to areas very distant to his figure and even with the ban of displaying posters On the public thoroughfare that can "avengorzarle", which has been described by some local media as a visit " North Korea style".

Lam said Hong Kong has more development opportunities by actively participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Xi addressed the protests obliquely, saying that in the years since Hong Kong returned to China "We've met some new situations, new issues and new challenges".

The leaders of the League of Social Democrats and Demosisto had gathered to make their way to the square in the Wanchai district where the flag-raising ceremony was taking place.

British government data, diplomatic sources and testimonials from six Hong Kong residents paint a picture of rising anxiety over the future and growing mistrust of Communist Party leaders in Beijing, especially among the younger generation.

"He wants to spread China's ideas, but he doesn't understand Hong Kong and has little contact with the people of Hong Kong".

Some warn the law could be used as an excuse to crack down on criticism of the government or the discussion of controversial topics like Hong Kong independence. A previous attempt to introduce the legislation drew half a million protesters onto the streets and resulted in the resignation of a key minister in 2003. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said Friday that the original arrangement, which assured the protection of the basic rights of Hong Kong, is "history and of no practical significance" now.

The Hong Kong Basic Law, part of the treaty governing the handover of power from Britain to China and meant to protect the rights of Hong Kong for 50 years after the transition has been "ripped up" just 20 years into the deal, reports The Times.

CNN's Yuli Yang, Serenitie Wang and Karina Tsui contributed reporting.

"You see this in attacks on the judiciary and the rule of law, interference in court cases, you see it in the atmosphere of hostility toward the independence of universities and the media", he told CNN before the anniversary.

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