Hong Kong’s 15th Handover Anniversary A Reason For Celebration?


Yesterday’s 15th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China was highlighted with an elaborate fireworks display that dazzled spectators for 23 minutes. But one question that comes to mind is whether this occasion deserves to be called a celebration?

Fireworks are normally showcased to welcome the Chinese New Year but last night’s display was also part of a tradition that commemorates a transition from one era to another. But at a value of 8 million Hong Kong dollars (US$1.03m) it is an expensive element of celebration, a label many people who joined in rallies in sweltering conditions would likely disagree with.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, right, shakes hands with Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying after Leung was sworn in, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Hong Kong Sunday, July 1, 2012. Hong Kong’s new Beijing-backed leader was sworn in on Sunday amid a rising tide of public discontent over widening inequality and lack of full democracy in the semiautonomous southern Chinese financial center. Pic: AP

For many locals, the suspicious death of dissident and labor rights activist Li Wangyang prompted them to take to the streets and call for full investigation into his death. Li was a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and spent 21 years in prison. On June 6, Li, who was blind and deaf, was found hanged from a Hunan hospital window. Authorities ruled his death as suicide, even though there are suspicions he didn’t take his own life. Participants in the rally interviewed by the South China Morning Post believed the rally “could make a difference” to how authorities handle Li’s death.

For others it’s a show of disappointment over the city’s new leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who was also sworn in yesterday. Leung, a millionaire property consultant, along with his appointed officials, took oath in front of China’s President Hu Jintao. And to some extent, maybe it’s a show of force against mainlanders who are accused of various things, from pushing property prices to stratospheric levels to taking away maternity slots.

The President’s visit and Chief Executive’s oath of office were the focal points of discontent towards Beijing, accused of meddling Hong Kong’s affairs. For instance, some Hong Kong lawmakers proposed a draft outlining the city’s path to universal suffrage. But so far, the mainland offered consistent rejection of such proposals. It’s therefore not a surprise to notice people don’t trust Mr Leung that much, since he was elected in March not by majority of local people, but by a special committee with close attachment to Beijing. And it is evident through surveys.

A result of a poll released by the University of Hong Kong indicating mistrust towards Beijing at 37%, the highest since the handover. Another survey showed Hongkongers who identify themselves as citizens of China fell to a 13-year low.

Other events held in the day were artistic performances, carnivals and parachute jumping performance, which is fit for certain festivities such as independence day. But many Hong Kong people would beg to disagree.

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