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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Protests at handover anniversary

Police stop protesters carrying a 'Tiananmen heros' memorial

Hong Kong has marked the second anniversary of its return to Chinese rule amid angry pro-democracy protests and new fears of interference by Beijing.

Police cordoned off about 2,000 demonstrators from the convention centre, where China's Vice President Hu Jintao and Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa attended a ceremony to commemorate Britain's handover of the territory.

[ image: Celebrations included a flag raising ceremony]
Celebrations included a flag raising ceremony
Mr Tung and Mr Hu unveiled a HK$10 million granite ''unification monument'' marking the founding of the territory as a Special Administrative Region of China on 1 July, 1997.

"As masters of our own destiny we will meet every challenge," Mr Tung said as protesters shouted pro-democracy slogans nearby.

In demonstrations that would not be permitted on the mainland, activists called for an end to China's one-party communist system.

And they demanded an amnesty for political prisoners, including those jailed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing.

Police later confiscated protesters' megaphones, saying they were responding to residents' complaints of noise. No one was arrested.

Prosperous and free

During the ceremony, President Hu said Hong Kong had stayed prosperous and free in the two years since its return to China from Britain.

[ image: One country. two systems: A boy waves Hong Kong and China flags]
One country. two systems: A boy waves Hong Kong and China flags
"Hong Kong people can absolutely manage Hong Kong well," he told an audience of dignitaries. "Hong Kong has kept its social and financial systems that have been in place, and its way of living has not been changed."

Hong Kong has retained its free-market economy and British-style judiciary and civil service under a formula dubbed "one country, two systems".

But Thursday's anniversary celebrations come amid accusations the territory is surrendering its autonomy.

Beijing intervention

On Saturday, China overturned a ruling by Hong Kong's highest court regarding the rights of mainlanders to settle in the territory.

The court had ruled that Hong Kong's post-colonial constitution granted residency to any mainland Chinese with one Hong Kong parent, even if the parent gained residency after the child was born.

But the Hong Kong Government, fearing an influx of 1.6 million migrants, asked Beijing to pass a final judgement on what the constitution was intended to say about such immigrants.

Pro-democracy politicians and lawyers have condemned Beijing's intervention, saying the move harms Hong Kong's autonomy.

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