The government of Hong Kong canceled a fireworks show on Wednesday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of communist China, fearing the event would be a magnet for pro-democracy protesters who do not feel bound by Beijing.
The People’s Republic of China, as the communist tyranny is officially named, is planning the largest military parade in decades in Beijing and a host of activities to celebrate Mao Ze Dong and the legacy of radical Marxism in China. Communist Party chairman Xi Jinping will reportedly deliver an “important” speech, according to state media, that many believe may finally address the three months of protests against his regime in Hong Kong.
Xi has refused to address the political crisis in Hong Kong save for a passing remark that the city is among the “struggles” communists must overcome in their aspirations to rule the world during a speech in early September.
Hong Kong residents took the streets in June to protest a bill that would have allowed China to imprison people present in Hong Kong for communist crimes, thus effectively ending Hong Kong’s autonomous rule. While the Hong Kong government has promised to fully withdraw the bill from its legislature, the protesters remain in the streets for their four other “key demands”: direct election of lawmakers, freedom for political prisoners, an end to the government referring to peaceful protesters as “rioters,” and an independent investigation into police brutality.
Many observers fear that Beijing will engage in a violent crackdown on protests before the October 1 communist holiday to avoid embarrassment.
If so, it appears officials in Hong Kong are not expecting to be able to put on the show they had initially planned that day. According to the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP), fireworks scheduled to occur over Victoria Harbor to celebrate the founding of communist China will no longer occur,
“In view of the latest situation and having regard to public safety, the National Day Fireworks Display originally scheduled to take place at Victoria Harbour in the evening of October 1 (Tuesday) will be canceled,” a statement issued Wednesday by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the city government read. HKFP notes that other similar holiday events, such as a flag-raising ceremony, appear to still be scheduled to occur.
RTHK, a local broadcaster, noted that the National Day festivities were already “expected to be a more low-key affair than usual” this year given the months of protests against the government National Day is meant to revere. The outlet also noted that canceling the fireworks is not unprecedented; the same occurred during the Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protests of 2014.
In Beijing, state media is building anticipation for one of the biggest celebrations in Chinese history. The state newspaper Global Times announced in August that a military parade in the city center will join as many as 100,000 people, military and civilians alike, in a celebration rivaling the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the founding of the People’s Republic. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) teased the “debut” of several new weapons during the parade, while state propaganda insisted that communists from places outside of China, but which China nonetheless claims – like Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan – will participate.
“Chinese military observers said the parade, which can been [sic] seen as an unprecedented grand ceremony, will manifest China’s military power, telling the Chinese people that China has the capability to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity and any country that attempts to provoke China and threaten China’s territorial sovereignty and integrity should think twice,” the Global Times wrote at the time.
Xi Jinping is scheduled to “deliver an important speech,” but the Communist Party has not elaborated on its contents.
Finding Hong Kong residents to partake in the Beijing parade will prove a difficult task for the Party, as Hongkongers who identify as Chinese hit record lows this summer. According to a University of Hong Kong survey published in June, as the protests began to ramp up, 90 percent of people between the ages of 18-29 living in Hong Kong said they were not proud of being citizens of China. Only 11 percent of all respondents said they identified as “Chinese.” While the number of those identifying as Chinese was shockingly low this summer, it peaked in the 2000s at around 33 percent, suggesting that there has not been a time since the handover of the city from the U.K. to China that Hongkongers have embraced Chinese identity.
The Hong Kong protesters have made clear their distaste for the Communist Party by burning and otherwise desecrating the Chinese flag publicly. Many choose instead to fly the flag of America, which they say better represents their values.
Pro-Chinese agitators who wave the Chinese flag in public are often met with disapproval. On Wednesday, police had to escort communist agitators out of a mall in Tsim Sha Tsui for waving the Chinese flag and singing “March of the Volunteers,” the communist anthem, resulting in shoppers drowning them out with boos.