Tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Hong Kong Friday, as the city marked the 19th anniversary of its handover from Britain to China.
While government officials and nearly 1,000 Hong Kong residents attended a flag-raising ceremony at the Golden Bauhinia Square Friday morning, much larger crowds gathered for a protest march.
Many residents oppose the oversight by the Chinese government and believe Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, whose approval rating is at 19 percent according to the most recent public opinion survey, is beholden to Beijing.
Huge crowds of those residents protested on the anniversary, giving the march a twin theme: Prevent Leung from getting a second term of office, and demonstrate anger over the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The latter has been highlighted by the case of five local booksellers who were taken into custody by mainland authorities and held inside China for months.
One of these booksellers, Lam Wing-kee, who recently managed to return to Hong Kong, described his seven months in virtual solitary confinement and interrogation as “mental torture." He was scheduled to lead the march, but later withdrew, saying he feared for his safety.
Meanwhile, at the government-backed flag-raising ceremony, Chef Executive Leung said, "We will continue to implement the policy of one country, two systems, Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong and a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the Basic Law," adding that the government would continue to boost the economy and improve the livelihood of its residents.