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Hong Kong protesters arrested ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's arrival

Sydney Morning Herald - June 29, 2017

Kirsty Needham, Hong Kong Chinese President Xi Jinping has told Hong Kong he will ensure the stability of 'One Country, Two Systems' after arriving for his first visit since becoming China's leader.

Mr Xi said his visit was to showcase Beijing's support for Hong Kong and help plan its future.

China's President Xi Jinping has arrived in Hong Kong to mark its 20th anniversary of Chinese rule.

Hong Kong is under its heaviest security lockdown since 1997, when it was handed back from Britain to China, with 10,000 police deployed for Mr Xi's three-day visit.

The traditional protest opposing the anniversary has been planned for Friday evening, while Demosisto, the more radical youth activist party, called for street protests on July 1, after its leadership was arrested by police on Wednesday evening.

Barricades weighing two tonnes per segment encircle the Wanchai area where 20th anniversary celebrations, and the swearing-in of new chief executive Carrie Lam, will be held on Saturday. Mr Xi arrived at noon, greeted by students waving Hong Kong and Chinese flags.

Beijing has been criticised by Hong Kong opposition politicians and prominent figures such as former chief secretary Anson Chan for interference in Hong Kong affairs and emphasising the 'one country' of China over the 'two systems' that had promised to give Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

In a speech at the airport, Mr Xi said China's central government will support Hong Kong in growing its economy and improving people's wellbeing.

"I hope all sectors of Hong Kong could work together to learn from experiences and plan for the future, to ensure that One Country, Two Systems can be upheld," he said.

He will visit West Kowloon on Thursday afternoon to sign an agreement to establish the Hong Kong Palace Museum, which could display some of China's most valuable pieces from Beijing's Palace Museum, and will later attend a dinner with politicians and business people.

Hong Kong's highest profile young democracy activists, including politician Nathan Law and student Joshua Wong, were arrested ahead of his arrival on Thursday.

Twenty-six activists in all were arrested for causing a public nuisance after they climbed onto Hong Kong's Golden Bauhinia monument, a gift from the Chinese government in 1997 that will be the site of a flag-raising ceremony for the anniversary.

Television footage late on Wednesday night showed the protesters, including Mr Law and Mr Wong, shouting as they were carried away by police. Mr Wong cried out: "Protest on July 1."

A statement by Demosisto said they had staged a peaceful protest with three other democracy groups and university students to demand the release of Chinese dissident and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is dying of cancer in a Chinese hospital, "and to have universal suffrage".

Among the arrested were seven Demosisto members, including Mr Law, who at 23 was the youngest person elected to Hong Kong's Legislative Council last year; Agnes Chow, previously a key figure in the 2014 Umbrella protests; and Mr Wong, the schoolboy who sparked the youth protest movement and is the subject of the Netflix film Teenager versus Superpower. "There is no information about the time of release," Demosisto's statement said.

Ahead of Mr Xi's visit, Mrs Lam had told Chinese state television that "all pro-independence behaviour violates local law. We must strictly enforce the law."

Two former Hong Kong governors, Chris Patten and David Wilson, said in an interview with the South China Morning Post newspaper last weekend that it had been "a big mistake" to allow the democracy campaign in Hong Kong to "morph into calls for independence".

Mr Xi will visit the People's Liberation Army garrison on Friday, where around 7000 soldiers are based.

Willy Wo-Lap Lam, adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Mr Xi would come with carrot and stick. The carrot is likely to be "economic goodies" to maintain high growth, but he predicted a stern lecture to the young.

Mrs Lam said the "so-called independence movement" was a red herring, as few people in Hong Kong supported independence, yet it was being used to justify a crackdown against all democracy activists.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/hong-kong-protesters-arrested-ahead-of-chinese-president-xi-jinpings-visit-20170629-gx0wt3.html.

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