Hong Kong officials attended a flag-raising ceremony at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) on Saturday morning to mark China’s National Day. Among those in attendance was the city’s security chief, Chris Tang.
Tang was joined by Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs Alice Mak and Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on the campus, which was the site of intense clashes between pro-democracy protesters and police during the anti-extradition unrest in 2019.
Wearing maroon face masks given out by the university, the attendees, which included university students and staff, stood to attention as the national anthem played and members of a uniformed group raised the China and Hong Kong flags.
The building that used to house the PolyU student union – which had its ties with the university severed in April – stood in the background. The university ordered the 28-year-old students’ union to cease using the university’s name and resources, and to vacate campus premises, citing a need to safeguard the institution’s reputation.
Some students and staff, and their family members, stayed behind after the ceremony to take photos with the flags.
The University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University also organised flag-raising ceremonies to celebrate the occasion.
To mark China’s National Day, a public holiday in Hong Kong, the city’s streets and footbridges have been decked out with Chinese and Hong Kong flags, and celebratory slogans, to hail the anniversary.
After attending the flag-raising at the university, Yeung posted on Facebook to say the ceremony was “dignified” and “filled with national pride.
“Under the leadership of the central government, [China] has progressed leaps and bounds. The power of the country, and its international sway, is increasing non-stop,” the official wrote. “With the support and care of the motherland, Hong Kong will continue to make full use of the advantages of ‘One Country, Two Systems… and contribute to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Earlier that morning, a flag-raising ceremony was held at the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, followed by a reception attended by the city’s top officials. The vicinity was heavily guarded, with counter-terrorism police and armoured vehicles on standby.
‘I’m from the mainland’
A representative of PolyU’s media relations team told HKFP that “over a thousand attendees” were at the ceremony.
HKFP observed that most of the students present were Mandarin speakers.
A first-year PolyU student, who asked to be identified as Mars, said he came to the event on his own accord. “After all, I’m from the mainland. We want to attend ceremonies like this on National Day,” he told HKFP.
A student, who asked to be identified as C and was on campus that morning, told HKFP that he thought the ceremony was relatively similar to previous ones. “I guess the officials attending are higher ups,” he said.
“Locals won’t come to ceremonies like this,” C continued.
Another Hongkonger, who did not give their name, told HKFP that he believed Hong Kong students were not as enthusiastic about the flag-raising ceremony as those from mainland China. “You could see how the mainland students were singing along the nation anthem just now,” he said.
Pro-democracy groups have traditionally seen China’s National Day as an occasion for protest and voicing their political demands. Such scenes, however, have been muted under the national security law and Covid-19 group gathering restrictions.
One of Hong Kong’s last active pro-democracy parties, the League of Social Democrats (LSD), said some members received phone calls from national security police earlier this week asking if they had plans to hold activities on National Day.
Chan Po-ying, chairperson of the LSD, told HKFP that members had decided to lay low this year, citing fear of being arrested under “ambiguous” laws.
Additional reporting: Lea Mok.
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