China's Xi warns against 'impermissible' challenges in Hong Kong

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Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters delivered a rebuke to President Xi Jinping after the Chinese leader warned that Hong Kong must not become a launchpad for challenges to Beijing's authority.

"Any act that endangers the state sovereignty, challenges the central government's authority and the authority of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or that uses Hong Kong to penetrate and destruct the mainland, has crossed the red line, and must not be allowed", he said.

Pro-democracy campaigners have accused police of abusing their power and assaulting a number of their activists at a protest to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty.

Many young people have also realized that Hong Kong would not have real democracy under the "one country, two systems" model, he said, adding that the trend of young people establishing their own identity while rejecting a Chinese identity would not stop.

He was briefed on how the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, through investment in infrastructure, is enhancing its connections within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area as well as with the rest of Mainland, and on the strategy of strengthening Hong Kong as an global and regional logistics hub. The same goes for books that present Xi and other top Communist Party leaders in a negative light, whether they be carefully argued scholarly works or lurid, gossipy biographies.

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In many major Hong Kong newspapers, coverage of protests has been eclipsed by exhaustive accounts of Xi's itinerary and quotes from him, at a time when the media stands accused of succumbing to pressure from Beijing.

Associated Press photographer Kin Cheung has documented Hong Kong's transition to Chinese rule with several pairs of abstract photos based on daily life and local symbols.

Those protests were sparked by a Beijing-backed political reform package which said Hong Kong could have a public vote for leader, but that candidates must be vetted first.

"I am convinced that the practice of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong will write a new chapter", he said. The pro-democracy movement lost considerable momentum after Beijing turned a cold shoulder to the 2014 protests.

Like all of Xi's official visits, this trip was carefully choreographed, and the city has been filled with police and security officers.

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The U.S. State Department also said Thursday that the USA "remains concerned about any infringement of civil liberties in Hong Kong", and expressed support for the "further development of Hong Kong's democratic systems".

There were fears that the PLA would crack down in Hong Kong when it was returned to China, particularly after Tiananmen, but it has kept a very low profile. In that symbolic place shouted slogans in favor of democracy and the release of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Liu Xiaobo (terminal cancer patient) before being arrested by the police.

Small congregations of Pro-China groups were present, but were far outnumbered by the pro-democracy contingent.

Security was tight at the same harbour-front venue where two decades earlier, the last colonial governor, Chris Patten, tearfully handed back Hong Kong to Chinese rule at a rain-soaked ceremony.

In response to the USA and United Kingdom statements, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang detailed Hong Kong's "comprehensive achievements with the support of the central government and mainland".

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But it does little to reassure those seeking to preserve Hong Kong's autonomy and separate identity from the mainland or increase its political freedoms, as events of the past few days have shown.