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Hong Kong anniversary includes protesters demanding democracy
HONG KONG -- As protesters lashed out at Beijing's "murderous regime," President Jiang Zemin marked Hong Kong's first five years back in China by saying Monday it had retained its capitalist ways and now should support the mainland.
Right after Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was sworn in to a second term, Jiang urged everyone in the former British colony to "keep enhancing their sense of the country and of the nation."
Outside the anniversary ceremonies -- and out of earshot of the dignitaries -- demonstrators clamored for improved human rights in the mainland, an accounting for the 1989 massacre of students in Beijing's Tiananmen Square and an "end to the one-party dictatorship."
The protests showed Hong Kong retains Western-style freedoms unheard of in mainland China, although pro-democracy activists complained police are making it more difficult.
"Down with Jiang Zemin," several dozen chanted as they marched with a mock coffin condemning China's "murderous regime." Police halted them at one point, saying they wanted to check the coffin for nails or spikes that could be used to hurt people.
Nearby, about 100 Falun Gong practitioners sat in lotus positions in a silent appeal for Beijing to stop its deadly crackdown on the meditation group outlawed in China as an "evil cult."
Falun Gong remains legal in Hong Kong but followers griped that immigration officials prevented more than 100 followers from entering to attend the protests.
The Hong Kong Security Bureau declined to discuss specifics but said police needed to ensure visitors "would not cause trouble."
Under cloudy morning skies, a police band solemnly hoisted the Chinese and Hong Kong flags to mark Hong Kong's return from Britain to China on July 1, 1997.
"It aroused a lot of patriotic feelings in me," said retired businessman Kao Lap, who waved a flag while singing along with China's national anthem. "I think things can improve and I hope the next five years will be better."
The territory in a "one country, two systems" arrangement that allows for considerable local autonomy and freedoms.
Jiang said it's worked well and "the capitalist system and the lifestyle that Hong Kong residents are accustomed to have remained unchanged."
Critics fear Hong Kong's freedoms are fading. Many ordinary citizens are dissatisfied with Tung, and he has shown no inclination to move toward full democracy. Breaking more than a year's silence on Hong Kong politics, the territory's popular former No. 2 official, Anson Chan, said Monday people will regain lost confidence if they get more say in who governs them.