China is hosting lavish events to mark 70 years of Communist rule since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
On 1 October 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong announced the formation of the PRC, after communist forces won a bloody civil war.
Modern China has since developed at an extraordinary pace, but it has also become one of the world’s most restrictive states. However, the celebration is overshadowed as thousands took to Hong Kong streets, with some violent clashes breaking out.
Police fired tear gas and made arrests as people blocked roads, as they protested against what they say is increasing control by Beijing over the territory’s society and politics.
President Xi Jinping said “no force” could shake China as he oversaw a huge military parade in Tiananmen Square.
“No force can ever stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward,” said the Chinese leader in a brief opening address.
According to the Ministry of National Defence, around 15,000 military personnel, 580 pieces of military equipment and 160 aircraft made an appearance at the parade.
The nation’s newest military technology was on full display. Military tanks, helicopters and even the DF-41 -China’s new intercontinental ballistic missile was spotted.
An echelon of planes in a “70” formation held a fly past.
The military parade is now followed by what officials are calling a “happy and lively show” involving about 100,000 civilian performers on floats, from farmers and teachers to doctors and students.
Later in the evening, a gala performance will be held in the square.
The events are open to officials, select members and invited foreign dignitaries only, but will be watched by hundreds of millions of people around the country.
Security has been high in central Beijing for weeks. There are strict controls on flying kites or drones around the parade area. Even racing pigeons have been banned.
Media censorship which is always stringent in China has been tightened even further, with broadcasters given a set list of programmes to play and internet censors removing any online criticism of the Communist Party or its leaders.
Hong Kong is bracing itself for multiple protests that have been planned across various districts of the city.
Demonstrators have begun gathering on main roads in downtown Hong Kong, and fighting has already broken out between police and protesters in the Tuen Mun district, reports says.
In Wong Tai Sin, police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who had blocked roads.
Police had earlier said they received credible intelligence that activists were planning a major violent escalation in the city, setting fire to shops and railway stations.
Almost a dozen metro stations and numerous shopping centres in the city have been closed, and some 6,000 officers have been deployed in the territory.
An annual fireworks display had previously been cancelled.
Hong Kong has been a part of China since 1997 but has its own system of law and government known as ’’One Country Two Systems.’’
In a speech given on the eve of the 70th anniversary celebrations, President Xi promised to “fully and faithfully implement” the principles of this system.
But in recent years, there has been increasing opposition to what has been seen as the growing influence of Beijing on Hong Kong’s society and politics.
Hong Kong always sees anti-Beijing protests on 1 October, and this year they are expected to be larger than ever, because of the months of unrest triggered by proposed changes to the extradition law.
The changes would have made it possible for China to extradite people to the mainland from Hong Kong; something opponents felt put Hong Kongers at risk of persecution in unfair trials.
For nearly four months, protesters have taken to the streets at times in the millions.
The proposed changes to the extradition law have officially been scrapped but that has failed to quell the unrest which has now evolved into an existential battle over Hong Kong’s future.
The protesters are now demanding full democracy for the territory and for police to be held accountable over the use of force, among other issues.