Two days ago Hong Kongers took to the streets in the tens of thousands to mark the 15th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China.
They also took to the streets to protest against the lack of universal suffrage in Hong Kong and to show that they’re fed up with political wrangling and corruption at home, and to express their wariness of the influence seemingly being extended from the communist party in Beijing.
In 1997, Hong Kong was handed back to China under the “one country, two systems” rule whereby the government in Beijing grants Hong Kong certain autonomy – such as free assembly and the right to free speech.
The protesters are evidence of the freedoms that exist in Hong Kong. Such large-scale public gatherings on the Mainland would be inconceivable without harsh repression.
Though the protest was peaceful with young families pushing their toddlers in prams, teenagers and middle-aged professionals holding umbrellas to shield from the sun, the mood was defiant. Hong Kongers aren’t happy with the current state of affairs and they’re showing it.
People are worried about rising property prices, of the widening wealth gap and about the new chief executive Leung Chun-ying who was sworn in by the Chinese president Hu Jintao just hours before the protest took place on Sunday.
A big worry is Leung’s close ties to the Beijing government as well as Beijing’s influence over who gets to run Hong Kong and who doesn’t. Beijing has promised direct elections for 2017 but Hong Kongers seem sceptical this will happen.
What’s more, Leung has in the past few days been heavily criticised for having so-called illegal structures at his home on The Peak, the most exclusive address in Hong Kong. He may now be in the process of removing the illegal basement and parking space but more damage to his political persona has been done – he’s seen as aloof.
As Leung settles in to govern Hong Kong this week, he has his work cut out for himself trying to get into Hong Kongers good books.
And if recent public outcries are anything to go by – from the Tiananmen Square candlelit vigil on 4 June, which drew 200,000 protesters to Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, to the protest on 10 June, which called for an official investigation into the suspicious death of Tiananmen Square activist Li Wangyang – it’s not certain that the defiant mood here will abate anytime soon.