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Thousands rally in Hong Kong over Beijing’s tightening grip

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Hong Kong’s annual pro-democracy protest saw one of the lowest turnouts in history. Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of Hong Kong people braved sweltering heat yesterday to protest against Beijing’s tightening grip over the city as the former British colony marked the 21st anniversary of its return to Chinese rule.

The protestors included elderly people in wheelchairs, couples with sleeping toddlers and young residents, some of whom waved banners saying: “End one party rule; Against the fall of Hong Kong.”

“Now the government is already siding with the Communist Party. Can Hong Kong see any universal suffrage in 20 or 30 year’s time? I don’t think so,” said 13-year-old Joanna Wen, who was accompanied by her father.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing it a high degree of autonomy and the promise of eventual universal suffrage.

Beijing’s refusal to grant full democracy to Hong Kong triggered massive street protests in 2014 and deepened resentment toward China’s perceived growing encroachment on the territory, where its influence in nearly every facet of life has increased.

Hundreds of police were deployed yesterday as some demonstrators marched with yellow umbrellas, a symbol of democratic activism in the Hong Kong.

At a ceremony early yesterday to mark the handover anniversary, Chief Executive Carrie Lam asserted that the “one, country, two systems” framework remains intact under her watch.

Ms Lam was chosen by a largely pro-Beijing committee of some 1,200 people in the city of 7.3 million.

Her approval ratings have dipped since then.

A University of Hong Kong survey of 1,000 people put her approval rating at 54.3 percent, down from 61.1 percent a year ago.

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