In HK, Xi says 'one country, two systems' to stay

STORY: Hong Kong marked the 25th anniversary of handover from British to Chinese rule with a flag raising ceremony on Friday (July 1).

Attended by its new sworn-in Chief Executive John Lee.

As Chinese president Xi Jinping announced there is no reason to change Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" formula of governance.

The anniversary has traditionally seen thousands march to protest Beijing's grip over the city.

But not this time.

The most outspoken opposition politicians and democracy activists are either in jail or self-exile.

Overseas Hong Kong activist Samuel Chu.

"I think in my mind, and I think for many in Hong Kong, this is a city that is no longer recognizable. Even five years ago, you would expect that July 1st - the march, actually it was a day of protest."

Amid tight security, China's President Xi Jinping made a rare visit to the global financial hub for the occasion.

Back in 1997, Beijing promised wide-ranging autonomy, unfettered individual rights and judicial independence at least until 2047.

But China's critics accuse authorities of trampling on those freedoms, unavailable on the authoritarian mainland - with a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong in 2020 after mass pro-democracy protests the year before.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday (June 30) that China had failed to meet its handover commitments.

China and Hong Kong reject the accusations, saying the law "restored order from chaos".

U.S.-based academic and expert on constitutional law Michael C. Davis.

"I think as an outsider, to understand what is going on in Hong Kong, just imagine a similar hardline crackdown in New York or London. I mean, basically Hong Kong was one of the freest and most open societies in Asia, even ranked as such for years. And so that's where the crackdown is occurring. So almost all the ingredients of an open society are under threat - the universities, the secondary schools, the broadcast media, and so on."

Former police officer Lee, sanctioned by Washington over his role in implementing the security law, now takes charge.

The city is facing an exodus of people and talent amid some of the toughest health crisis restrictions in the world.

Xi did not attend the traditional flag-raising ceremonies on Friday, with media reporting he stayed overnight across the border in Shenzhen after arriving in Hong Kong on Thursday.