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Hong Kong Marks 10th Anniversary of Chinese Rule

Chinese President Hu Jintao led celebrations in Hong Kong Sunday to mark the former British colony's 10th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule.

The territory's red flag was raised and Buddhist monks rang bells to celebrate the day Britain handed over the territory to China after 156 years of colonization.

In a speech Sunday morning, Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is on his first official trip to the city, said democracy in Hong Kong is growing in an orderly way. But he did not mention any timetable for universal suffrage. The Chinese leader left for the mainland's southern city of Shenzhen soon after the speech.

Alongside the grand government-organized celebrations, tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents are marching in support of democracy today. As in previous years, protesters are demanding the right to directly elect their leaders.

Hong Kong operates under a "one country, two systems" policy, and enjoys greater political and social freedoms than in mainland China.

Hong Kong residents cannot directly elect the territory's chief executive or half of the legislature.

Demands for universal suffrage have cooled in recent years. In 2003, more than 500-thousand demonstrators protested during the anniversary of the handover to China, but the size of protests has dwindled in the past few years.

Mr. Hu also sworn in Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang today for his second term in office.

Hong Kong's first decade under Chinese rule has included the Asian financial crisis that began just after the July first handover in 1997, as well as the 2003 outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which hurt the city's vibrant tourist industry.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.