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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC



Mon.-Fri.  20:00 - 20:40 (JST)

Xi lauds HK govt. grip on control

Mitsuko Nishikawa

Jun. 30, 2017

Chinese President Xi Jinping continued his first official trip to Hong Kong ahead of a milestone anniversary. Saturday marked 20 years since Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain.

Xi inspected a base of the People's Liberation Army in Hong Kong on Friday. He reviewed about 3,100 personnel lined up in front of armored vehicles and helicopters.

It was the largest military display in Hong Kong since the return to Chinese rule. Xi attended a series of celebrations in his first visit to Hong Kong since coming to power.

On Thursday, China's President underscored his commitment to Hong Kong's autonomy as he met senior figures of Hong Kong government.

He stressed the success of the "one country, two systems" policy that affords Hong Kong more rights, but he also complimented officials for cracking down on the pro-independence movement.

"The Hong Kong government has effectively silenced the pro-independence activists and safeguarded social stability," Xi said.

While some of the movement's leaders were arrested the night before, there was still a rally.

"We should fight for the justice and for the freedom for our country," said one demonstrator.

Protestors demanded Chinese human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo be allowed complete freedom. Liu was recently paroled from an 11 year prison sentence after being diagnosed with late-stage cancer.

NHK World's Mitsuko Nishikawa was in Hong Kong. She followed President Xi's visit and series of events related to 20th anniversary. She spoke with Newsroom Tokyo's Aki Shibuya and Aiko Doden about the situation in Hong Kong.

Shibuya: Mitsuko, tell us about the atmosphere there.

Nishikawa: There's very heavy security in central part of Hong Kong. Barricades are set up at almost every corner.

More than 9,000 police officers have been reportedly deployed. It's one of the heaviest police presences in Hong Kong since its handover to China. And hundreds are expected to gather tonight at a pro-democracy demonstration.

On the streets, people's reaction to the anniversary is mixed.

Shibuya: I hear some are happy and others aren't about the anniversary. What is the reason behind this divide?

Nishikawa: I don't want to say people are widely split. Some feel Hong Kong benefits a lot from the mainland's economic growth, while others feel it's causing inequality. But the bottom line is Hong Kong people would like to protect the freedom that they cherish...and there are some who think increasing influence of the mainland can limit their rights. One of the biggest concerns they have is about the freedom of speech.

Doden: Mitsuko, what's behind the online movement?

Nishikawa: It all comes down to what many people here say is China's increasing suppression over free speech. Hong Kong has fallen nearly 20 spots in a global press freedom index over the past five years. Media here are finding it more and more difficult to cover sensitive stories about the government.

In 2015, people linked to a bookstore selling titles critical of the Communist Party were detained in the mainland. The bookstore has since been shuttered after reportedly coming under pressure from the Chinese government.

Shibuya: Xi will address the people of Hong Kong at a 20th anniversary ceremony. What is he expected to say?

Nishikawa: It will be interesting to hear what kinds of words he'll use about the independence movement. He's already praised the territory's government for silencing it. And we do know Xi will not stand for an independent Hong Kong.

A member of the Chinese leadership has recently called for a security law in Hong Kong to crackdown on hostilities toward Beijing. So the question is, how strong he may speak out about it? And how Hong Kong's new chief executive Carrie Lam will respond?