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On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping personally led nationwide celebrations to mark the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party. In his speech commemorating the day, Xi celebrated the party’s accomplishments, predicted the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” and warned that any foreign force that tries to bully China would “find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
But most people in Hong Kong did not celebrate. For them, this day marked the loss of their freedoms and democratic institutions. Since 1997, July 1 has been the high point of a series of annual protests and rallies celebrating Hong Kong’s once-flourishing civil society. But not this year. Last summer, the CCP implemented a national security law for Hong Kong that has destroyed its judicial independence, the safety of its businesses, and allowed Hong Kong authorities to imprison would-be protest organizers as well as the journalists who would have covered them. This July 1, propaganda banners celebrating the CCP’s 100-year anniversary stood where pro-democracy signs would otherwise have been. This year, the streets were filled with police, not celebrators.
“In Hong Kong now, you can barely recognize it was the first of July,” Nathan Law, a Hong Kong pro-democracy student activist now living in exile in London, told me during an interview. “Normally, the first of July was a showcase of civil society and big crowds of Hong Kong people. But today, you can only see a Hong Kong that is being silenced.”