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Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

China celebrates communist anniversary

The cream of China's forces were drafted in for the occasion

More than half a million Chinese soldiers and civilians have marched through the centre of Beijing in a massive parade to celebrate 50 years of the People's Republic of China.

China: 50 years of communism / Revolution Glossary
The parade through Tiananmen Square in the centre of the Chinese capital was used as a showcase for China's latest military hardware, including weapons and aircraft never before seen in public.

Overhead the air force's most modern jet fighters streaked through the air trailing red, blue and gold smoke.

[ image: China's leadership watched the parade from the historic Gate of Heavenly Peace]
China's leadership watched the parade from the historic Gate of Heavenly Peace
On the ground thousands of troops in immaculately pressed uniforms were drafted in for the event, but tight security around the square meant ordinary Chinese people were restricted to watching the event on television.

The minutely choreographed procession, reminiscent of those held in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, also included thousands of children in brightly coloured uniforms and a series of floats highlighting China's technological achievements.

It was the first such parade to take place in Tiananmen Square since the crushing of the pro-democracy movement there 10 years ago.

50-gun salute

The BBC's Adam Brookes: "China sees itself as a new world power"
The celebrations formally began with a 50-gun salute in the centre of the square from where the Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, addressed the nation.

He declared that China's own form of socialism was the only way to ensure the country's progress.

[ image: The parade was used to show off China's military power]
The parade was used to show off China's military power
A giant portrait of Mr Jiang was paraded through the square, alongside representations of China 's previous leaders and revolutionary heroes.

Years of preparation and millions of dollars have gone into the celebrations. The government has declared a week-long holiday to mark the anniversary.

Amongst the military hardware rolled out for the procession was China's newest nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile, the Dongfeng-31, capable of hitting the continental US.

Power projection

The BBC's Duncan Hewitt reports on what the celebrations mean to President Jiang Zemin
Also on show was the Chinese-built JH-7 Flying Leopard fighter bomber and the country's first in-flight refuelling tankers, enabling the air force to project its power well beyond China's borders.

Correspondents say the Chinese leadership is hoping that the anniversary will generate an upswell of national pride, distracting attention from charges of official corruption and complaints about unemployment and falling incomes.

[ image: Thousands of children also took part in the procession]
Thousands of children also took part in the procession
In a speech peppered with references to China's revolutionary past President Jiang said that 50 years of "arduous struggle and strenuous efforts" had "brought about earthshaking changes to the erstwhile poor and weak old China".

Mr Jiang made his speech atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace from where, 50 years earlier, Chairman Mao proclaimed the foundation of the People's Republic.

The celebrations are taking place amid a huge security operation.

Residents kept away

The authorities shut businesses along the parade route, padlocked manhole covers and ordered hotels to clear all rooms overlooking the parade.

[ image: Tight security surrounded the celebrations]
Tight security surrounded the celebrations
Beijing residents were kept away from the procession itself and the city was cleared of migrant workers.

Police have been ordered to turn back anyone from outside the capital, anyone hoping to present petitions, and the mentally ill.

Officials are also on the lookout for followers of the banned Falun Gong sect.

On Thursday Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji formally launched the 50th anniversary celebrations calling for a with a strong call for dissent to be crushed.

Hong Kong protest

In Hong Kong, scuffles broke out between police and a small group of pro-democracy demonstrators, as the territory held a simple flag-raising ceremony to mark China National Day.

The event included a march-past by People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers and a fly-past by five helicopters.

The former British colony reverted to Chinese rule three years ago.

The pro-democracy Frontier party said it would hold a demonstration later in the day against human rights abuses by the Communist Party.

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