HK marks 11th handover anniversary
Hong Kong and Chinese flags were raised together on Tuesday ahead of an annual street protest calling for democracy as the territory marked the 11th anniversary of its return to China. A few hundred local leaders and onlookers in red caps gathered for a ceremony beside the city's harbor. Children performed a traditional Chinese dance and hoisted rings representing next month's Olympic Games.
"We should celebrate the anniversary. It's like a birthday every year," Mary Chow, a 57-year-old nurse, said after the ceremony. Since the former British colony was returned to China on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong has largely retained its Western-style civil liberties including press freedom and the right to hold public protests, but its people still cannot directly choose their leader. That has prompted thousands to protest every year since 2003 to demand the right to pick their city's leader and entire legislature, and express their dissatisfaction with the government. Half a million people took to the street five years ago. But the turnout for this year's pro-democracy march was expected to dwindle to a few thousand as the territory faces no pressing issues to be resolved.
Hong Kong's leader was chosen by an 800-member committee stacked with Beijing loyalists. Half of its legislators are elected, with the rest chosen by interest groups.
Pro-democracy lawmakers have repeatedly asked for full democracy in 2012, but Beijing ruled last year the territory could elect its own leader in 2017 and all of its legislators later, possibly 2020 at the earliest.