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Latest update : 2014-07-23

Hong Kong in rebellion against the 'motherland'

In 1997 Hong Kong was proud to re-establish its Chinese identity after more than 150 years under British colonisation. But the atmosphere has changed and Hong Kong is now in open rebellion against the “motherland”. Our correspondent in China, Baptiste Fallevoz, spoke to Hong Kong residents who are defiantly making their voices heard.

Seventeen years ago this July, after a century and a half as a British colony, Hong Kong returned to the Chinese fold in a burst of fireworks. The population of the capitalist enclave looked forward to bright future, basking in its newfound Chinese identity.

But less than two decades later, a wind of rebellion has chilled the atmosphere. People frequently take to the streets in protest marches against the “motherland” and according to a recent poll, barely a third of Hong Kong inhabitants say they are proud to be Chinese citizens. Mainly, they fear for their civil rights.

Under the “one country, two systems” agreement, Hong Kong was to retain a certain amount of freedom after the sovereignty transfer, with civil and economic rights guaranteed until 2047. In theory, its citizens are free to demonstrate, criticise the government, and practice their religion.

But they see these rights eroding, as the Chinese Communist party clamps down on freedom of expression and increases control of the special territory. In response to this crackdown, the inhabitants of Hong Kong are organising a civil disobedience movement, with surprisingly radical elements for such a disciplined city. Some of the younger inhabitants even sound xenophobic, accusing tourists and immigrants from the mainland of saturating the city.

We followed journalists, editors and other members of civil society in their fight for democratic rights, among which some militants who provoke “Chinese invaders” with flags... from the British colonial era!

By Baptiste FALLEVOZ

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