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Protesters Arrested Days Before Hong Kong Marks 20 Years Under China

Pro-democracy activists protest on the Golden Bauhinia Square, a gift from China at the 1997 handover, during a protest a day before Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to arrive.
Protesters Arrested Days Before Hong Kong Marks 20 Years Under China
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Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of Britain handing over Hong Kong to China.

The city plans a major celebration of the change that took place on July 1, 1997. The Chinese military will hold a huge fireworks show, and Chinese President Xi Jinping is making a state visit starting Thursday.

But, as the city prepares, not everyone is welcoming the events.

Concerns over ‘one country, two systems’

Twenty-three-year-old Nathan Law is Hong Kong’s youngest-ever lawmaker. He is a member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.

“People are not celebrating but worrying about Hong Kong’s future and its current situation,” he told the Associated Press.

Law was a student leader in the huge pro-democracy demonstrations that took place in 2014. Those demonstrations failed to change the election process for Hong Kong’s chief executive.

Carrie Lam will be sworn-in as Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region on July 1. She, like current executive C.Y. Leung, has been criticized as being too close to the government in Beijing.

Law said there are growing concerns that the policy known as “one country, two systems” for Hong Kong is changing. Under the policy, Hong Kong has kept its government and capitalist economic system. It also kept a “high degree of autonomy” not enjoyed on the mainland.

But Law told AP that the Chinese government appears to be reducing freedoms in the territory.

“There are lots of people describing the current system as ‘one country, 1.5 systems,’” he said.

Incidents that have caused people in Hong Kong concern include the disappearance of five booksellers in late 2015. They were detained by the government for reportedly publishing books critical of Chinese politicians.

One man, Gui Minhai, is still being held.

In another case, a Chinese-born businessman who held a Canadian passport disappeared from his hotel room earlier this year. News reports have said he may have been detained by Chinese security, which would be a violation of Hong Kong’s laws.

Student protest leader Joshua Wong shouts as he is carried by policemen.
Student protest leader Joshua Wong shouts as he is carried by policemen.

Some Hong Kongers have started to show their displeasure. About 30 pro-democracy protesters were arrested on Wednesday, one day before Xi’s visit.

The protesters gathered around the “Forever Blooming Golden Bauhinia” statue. The monument marks where the handover on July 1 took place.

The activists were demanding full democracy and the unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo, the activist and Nobel Prize winner.

The 61-year-old writer was recently diagnosed with liver cancer and was released for health reasons.

During the protest, democracy supporters shouted, “Democracy now. Free Liu Xiaobo,” as they placed a black cloth over the Golden Bauhinia statue.

Britain first took control of Hong Kong in the 1840s.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Mario Ritter adapted this story from VOA and AP materials for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

Degree –n. a level or amount

Autonomy –n. the ability to self-rule with some restrictions

Diagnose –v. to identify, usually a disease or problem