Hongkongers will continue to enjoy freedoms protected under the national security law as well as under the One Country, Two Systems owing to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leadership, acting Chief Executive John Lee has said during the Hong Kong government’s July 1 celebration ceremony.

John Lee. Photo: HKGov webcast screenshot.

Lee delivered his remarks on the 24th Hong Kong SAR Establishment Day following a flag-raising ceremony at Golden Bauhinia Square outside the Wan Chai Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday.

Lee was acting in the place of Chief Executive Carrie Lam while she attended the coinciding CCP 100th anniversary celebrations in Beijing.

Photo: Michael Ho & Kenny Huang/Studio Incendo.

Hong Kong Guards of Honour marched partially in the Chinese-​style goose-step before the Chinese national flag and the Hong Kong regional flags were raised.

Photo: Michael Ho & Kenny Huang/Studio Incendo.

“While the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary, we should have a deeper experience and understanding of ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ which was proposed and implemented under the CCP’s leadership,” Lee said.

Photo: Michael Ho & Kenny Huang/Studio Incendo.

Referring to the anti-extradition bill protests of 2019, Lee said the reforms and improvements made to the Hong Kong electoral system by Beijing has helped solve the city’s crisis of “black violence” and “subversive forces” that attempted to seize authority using election “loopholes.” The city’s government will also continue to carry out its duty to defend national security, Lee said.

Photo: Michael Ho & Kenny Huang/Studio Incendo.

“I must emphasise that Article 4 of the national security law clearly states that protecting national security will respect and protect human rights. Therefore as [the government] defends national security, citizens will continue to enjoy freedoms of speech, the press, to protest and assembly, in accordance with the law,” he said.

Photo: Michael Ho & Kenny Huang/Studio Incendo.

‘Power to the people’

Meanwhile, League of Social Democrats (LSD) members Raphael Wong, Chan Po Ying, Tsang Kin-sing and Chow Ka-fat marched in a four-person demonstration in Wan Chai towards the flag-raising venue. They were each searched by dozens of officers at the start of the protest for over 20 minutes. The group called for the release of political prisoners, universal suffrage and the elimination of poverty. “Power to the people! More human rights than governing rights!” they chanted.

Police live-streamed the entirety of the protest on their social media feed and stopped the group at a hotel opposite the convention centre.

Photo: LSD screenshot via Facebook.

“Celebrate the 100 year anniversary [of the CCP], do not forget the original intentions,” said Wong. “I agree with Xi Jinping when he said not to forget original intentions, but not the rest.”

As the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest escalated, activists often reminded each other to remember the movement’s demands and goals.

“Today, whether it is in Hong Kong or the mainland, the CCP regime used the crimes of ‘subversion’ or ‘collusion with foreign forces’ to oppress dissidents… Dare I ask, is the country’s wealth and power today in its people’s hands? Does China today fulfil the ideals of the founders of the CCP?” he said.

The LSD – alongside an environmental group and a community group – previously applied to hold a July 1 march, but police rejected it based on Covid-19 concerns.

‘Erroneous allegations’

The Security Bureau warned in a statement issued on Wednesday that people participating in unauthorised assemblies on July 1 may face up to five years of imprisonment. The day is a traditional day of protest.

The Bureau also rebuked “misleading remarks” made against the national security law. “

 “Contrary to the erroneous allegations that the Hong Kong National Security Law undermines the ‘one country, two systems’ framework, our country has the right, indeed the duty, to legislate for this matter under ‘one country, two systems’. Every country has laws and the duty to safeguard its national security and sovereignty. The international community should not adopt a double standard,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, at around 2 a.m. on Thursday morning, several “flammable objects” including gasoline and portable gas cans for stoves were thrown at the Government House near Lower Albert Road, police said, causing a small fire.

Photo: HK Police compiled by HKFP.

No one was injured and the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau is investigating the case.

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.