China readies for anniversary, Hong Kong for protest

China readies for anniversary, Hong Kong for protest

A heart-shaped Chinese flag installation ahead of the 70th founding anniversary of People's Re
A heart-shaped Chinese flag installation ahead of the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China is seen on a street in Shanghai, China, Sep 26, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Aly Song)

BEIJING: Beijing put the finishing touches Monday (Sep 30) to a massive military parade to celebrate Communist China's 70th anniversary, but protesters in Hong Kong threatened to steal the global media spotlight.

Some 15,000 soldiers will march across Tiananmen Square and the latest military technology will be displayed on Tuesday in a patriotic show of strength to demonstrate the country's emergence as a global superpower.

A giant screen is set up at Tiananmen Square in preparation for the 70th founding anniversary of Pe
A giant screen is set up at Tiananmen Square in preparation for the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China on Oct 1, in Beijing, China Sep 26, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Jason Lee)

READ: Battered and bruised, Hong Kong cleans up for sensitive Chinese anniversary

READ: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

President Xi Jinping is expected to make a stirring speech ahead of the parade at the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the same spot where Chairman Mao Zedong announced the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

Tuesday is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China
Tuesday is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. (Photo: AFP/STR)

After the military march a civilian parade will involve 100,000 civilians and 70 floats, with organisers releasing 70,000 doves and 70,000 balloons before an evening performance and fireworks in Tiananmen.

The capital city was doused in red Chinese flags, flower displays, lanterns and political slogans ahead of the tightly-choreographed festivities.

READ: Commentary: The People’s Republic of China at 70 – reforms, achievements and challenges

The final seating stands were pulled into place in Tiananmen on Monday, with the whole square and central Beijing set to be closed off by evening.

Some roads were already closed on Sunday.

Chinese paralimitary police personnel march in front of the Tiananmen gate
Chinese paralimitary police personnel march in front of the Tiananmen gate in Beijing ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Sep 26, 2019. (Photo: AFP/NOEL CELIS)

State broadcaster CCTV was playing patriotic shows throughout Monday and showing images of celebrating citizens, including ethnic minorities in traditional dress waving Chinese flags.

Xi paid tribute to Mao's embalmed body at the late leader's mausoleum at Tiananmen Square.

FILE PHOTO: A police officer closes a rolling barrier to block a street in front of a display erect
A police officer closes a rolling barrier to block a street in front of a display erected for upcoming celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China September 11, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

But the city's pollution levels remained high - uncharacteristic ahead of a key event in China when authorities tend to close factories and produce clear skies.

The October 1 parade will go through the huge Chang?an Avenue that crosses the centre of Beijing and
The Oct 1 parade will go through the huge Chang?an Avenue that crosses the centre of Beijing and cuts through Tiananmen Square (Photo: AFP/Wang Zhao)

"DAY OF GRIEF"

While Beijing is preparing for huge celebrations, ongoing unrest in semi-autonomous Hong Kong threatens to upstage festivities with authorities in the semi-autonomous city Monday warning of increased violence by "rioters".

Tuesday's protests will be "very, very dangerous" Superintendent John Tse said.

The southern city witnessed its fiercest political violence in weeks Sunday when riot police spent hours in running battles with protesters, the streets blanketed in tear gas and smoke from burning barricades.

Millions have hit the streets during nearly four months of protests, and hardcore activists have repeatedly clashed with police, in the biggest challenge to China's rule since the city's handover from Britain in 1997.

READ: Intense Hong Kong clashes ahead of China's 70th anniversary

READ: Commentary: Reverence for the rich and powerful hold Hong Kong back from badly needed reforms

Activists have dubbed it a "Day of Grief", and there appears little sign of the protests abating in Hong Kong.

On Monday, authorities announced that they were upholding a ban on a planned National Day march, citing security concerns.

The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), a group that advocates non-violence and was behind a series of huge peaceful rallies earlier in the summer, hit out at the decision, saying it was the fourth time their march proposals have been rejected.

People take part in a general strike at Tamar Park in Hong Kong
People hold placards as they take part in a general strike at Tamar Park in front of the government buildings in Hong Kong, China September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

"Hong Kong is now having less and less freedom and becoming more and more like Beijing," CHRF spokeswoman Bonnie Leung told reporters.

With legal rallies banned, online forums used by the largely leaderless movement have instead called for wildcat protests across the city in an effort to stretch police resources.

School and university students also took part in a one-day class boycott on Monday.

An anti-government protester burns a Chinese flag during a protest in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong
An anti-government protester burns a Chinese flag during a protest in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong, China September 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

The city's summer of discontent was triggered by an extradition bill to the mainland that has now been shelved.

But the movement has since morphed into a call for free elections and less intervention from Beijing.

Protesters are calling for an independent inquiry into alleged police abuses, an amnesty for those arrested, and the right to elect their leaders - demands dismissed by China.

City leader Carrie Lam flew to Beijing Monday to take part in the National Day celebrations.

Follow us on Telegram for the latest on Hong Kong: https://cna.asia/telegram

Source: AFP/ic

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