Hong Kong marked its handover to China today with gun demonstrations and umbrellas

The 18th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to the People’s Republic of China was marked by demonstrations of China’s military might, a precisely choreographed flag-raising ceremony, and a sweaty, homegrown pro-democracy protest.

The People’s Liberation Army marked the anniversary by holding a demonstration of military might on a Hong Kong naval base, complete with marching drills and gun demonstrations.

People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers show off during a demonstration to the public, at a PLA naval base in Hong Kong
People’s Liberation Army soldiers in an anti-terrorism drill. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

Hong Kong’s deeply unpopular chief executive CY Leung presided over a flag-raising ceremony, buoyed by a small crowd of identically-dressed cheerers.

Elsewhere, tens of thousands turned out for the annual pro-democracy parade, a tradition that has gathered steam as Beijing proposed various unpopular laws over the past 18 years.

Today’s march was carnival-esque, full of families with young children moving slowly down the carefully-blocked off street, and pensioners gathering to listen to speeches. There were Guy Fawkes mask T-shirts for sale, and free rubber balls depicting chief executive Leung as begging puppy dog. Shops nearby did a brisk business in bubble teas and fish balls on sticks.

Hong Kong Democracy Protest
Protesters hold yellow umbrellas during an annual pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong (AP/Vincent Yu)

Hong Kong police, meanwhile, carefully filmed everyone who took part in the pro-democracy demonstration from a pedestrian overpass.

The crowd was smaller than last year, many attendees remarked. “Maybe people think it is fine now, after the political reform was vetoed,” Ocean Wong, 28, a math teacher at a local elementary school who was attending his third July 1 demonstration said, referring to Hong Kong’s recent vote on an electoral reform package proposed by Beijing.

Wong said he doesn’t really thing the pro-democracy event is “very useful.” But it’s “not good to act like nothing happens” in China, he added.

Leona Wong, 39, a cashier at a supermarket, marched holding a banner asking Leung to step down, with several other women her age. “We want to choose our own government,” she said. “I don’t want Hong Kong to end up” like China, she said, where Communist Party officers do whatever they want.

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