Hong Kong marked the 25th anniversary of its return to China on Friday, as Chinese leader Xi Jinping officiated the swearing in of new chief executive John Lee.

Xi Jinping
Chinese leader Xi Jinping officiates in Hong Kong on July 1, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

The closed-door celebrations were marked by high security, transport disruptions, media restrictions, and a typhoon forming near the Guangdong coast.

HKFP rounds up reactions from lawmakers, political parties, rights groups, and more.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB)

Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party said the future of “One Country, Two Systems,” the framework that the city has been governed since the Handover, is “beautiful and vast.”

“President Xi’s speech effectively dispelled various misunderstandings about the future of Hong Kong, and further consolidated the confidence of all sectors of Hong Kong society to unite and create a bright future,” a DAB spokesperson said.

Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) thanked Xi for attending the celebrations and expressing his expectations for Hong Kong, adding that they believe his words would be able to “motivate all sectors in Hong Kong to unite.”

July 1, 2022 25th handover anniversary Wan Chai police water barricade
Police set up water barricades around the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on July 1, 2022. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

“The FTU will continue to wave the banner of patriotism and love for Hong Kong, support the government in its effective governance in accordance with the law… and better integrate into the overall national development,” the union’s Facebook post read.

Tik Chi-yuen

The sole self-proclaimed non-pro-establishment lawmaker in the legislature Tik Chi-yuen said that Third Side, the centrist political party he leads, “expresses agreement with President Xi and the central government’s support of Hong Kong.”

Tik Chi-yuen
Lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Tik said Xi’s speech touched on issues that Third Side is concerned with, including the implementation of “One Country, Two Systems” and a high degree of autonomy; maintaining Hong Kong’s “unique strengths and position; and youth development.

“President Xi and the central government have personally expressed hopes for Hong Kong. We look forward to the new term of government… breaking through bureaucracy so Hong Kong can move forward,” Tik wrote on Facebook.

The Law Society of Hong Kong

The Law Society of Hong Kong, which represents the city’s solicitors, said Xi’s speech at the inauguration ceremony featured “clear reassurances and inspirational directions on the well-being of Hong Kong” and its integration with China.

Law Society of Hong Kong
Law Society of Hong Kong. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“I am pleased and confident that as the only common law jurisdiction in our country, Hong Kong will continue to play its unique role as a gateway to Mainland China, and as a connector between the East and West,” president of the Law Society Chan Chak-ming said.

See also: Hong Kong 25: 6 graphs showing a city in flux

Reporters Without Borders

International free expression watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said independent journalism has “never been so threatened” in Hong Kong. The city plummeted in the watchdog’s press freedom index – which ranks the media environment in 180 places – from 80th last year to 148th this year.

“The Hong Kong government has engaged in an unprecedented campaign against independent journalism in total disregard for the territory’s Basic Law which enshrines the principle of press freedom,” RSF’s East Asia Bureau head, Cédric Alviani, said. He urged democracies to “increase pressure on the Beijing regime for it to end its authoritarian policies and to restore full press freedom in Hong Kong”.

Amnesty International

Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Erwin van der Borght said in a statement that Lee’s past actions had “caused so much suffering in the city.”

July 1, 2022 25th handover anniversary Wan Chai police
Police officers on standby in Wan Chai on July 1, 2022. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

“John Lee’s record of repression makes this is an ominous moment for human rights in Hong Kong. As the city’s security chief, he led the assault on activists, opposition politicians and civil society under the national security law, and praised police who had used excessive force against protesters in 2019… Xi oversees the inauguration of a new leader hand-picked by the Beijing authorities in a territory where the law – and its repressive implementation – increasingly resembles that of mainland China.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

“July 1 marks the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong and Beijing authorities have broken their promises to Hong Kongers. We stand in solidarity with them and reinforce their calls for their promised freedoms to be reinstated,” Blinken tweeted.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

In a video uploaded onto Twitter, Johnson said that it was “indeed the case” that the “foundations on which modern Hong Kong had been built on” was “largely undisturbed” for a time, allowing Hongkongers to “thrive and flourish” after the Handover.

“But on the 25th anniversary of the Handover, we simply cannot avoid the fact that for some time now, Beijing has been failing to comply with its obligations. It’s a state of affairs that threatens both the rights and freedoms of Hongkongers and the continued progress and prosperity of their home,” Johnson wrote, adding that it is “no surprise” that 120,000 people holding BNO passports have taken up the UK’s pathway to reside in the country.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.