On the night before Xi Jinping is due to arrive in Hong Kong for celebrations marking 20 years since the city was handed back over to China, pro-democracy protesters briefly took over the city’s symbol of Chinese rule.
The “Forever Blooming Golden Bauhinia” was Beijing’s gift to Hong Kong in 1997 after it reassumed control of the island following more than 150 years of British rule. The giant golden statue, placed on the Wan Chai waterside, is now used for official flag-raising ceremonies and will feature prominently in celebrations scheduled for later this week.
Hundreds of perplexed tourists from mainland China watched on Wednesday night as around 30 pro-democracy protesters, including Joshua Wong, climbed up the symbolic statue, apparently catching police off guard, and unfurled a black banner which called for full democracy for Hong Kong and freedom for Liu Xiaobo.
How the Golden Bauhinia, a gift from China when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule 20 years ago, was occupied pic.twitter.com/fDArL2vlwm
— Alan Wong (@alanwongw) June 28, 2017
The protesters began shouting: “Democracy now! Free Liu Xiaobo! We do not want Xi Jinping! We want Liu Xiaobo!” before eventually being taken away by police for causing a “public nuisance.”
According to the South China Morning Post, it took police more than an hour to round up all the protesters who refused to surrender and simply climbed up the six-meter tall statue. Eventually, police called in firefighters to help.
Reuters reports that Wong himself was seen being carried to a police van by four officers while shouting: “Hong Kong people, don’t give up. Protest on July 1!”
Meanwhile, the mainland tourists awaiting the flag-raising ceremony were more than a little befuddled. “Who is Liu Xiaobo,” they asked, apparently unfamiliar with China’s most famous jailed dissident who recently was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “It will be the 20th anniversary of the handover. Foreigners will be watching. This is not good for the image of Hong Kong,” one 58-year-old tourist from Hainan told Reuters.
Ahead of the handover anniversary, Hong Kong has gone into lockdown with security forces patrolling the streets to ensure that everything is calm for Xi’s arrival. On Saturday, the Chinese president will take part in celebrations and watch as Carrie Lam is sworn in as the city’s new chief executive after being chosen by a 1,194-member pro-Beijing committee in March.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city, tens of thousands are expected to attend an annual pro-democracy march.
[Images via HK01.com]
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