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Latest update : 2017-02-24

Hong Kong divided over its future, 20 years after UK handover

On July 1, 1997, after more than a century of British rule, Hong Kong was officially handed back to China and became a Special Administrative Region. Thanks to the principle of "one country, two systems", the city retains certain prerogatives such as its money, laws and political system. Today, Hong Kong has become a world city hit by recurring political crises, while Hongkongers are still searching for their identity.

Spontaneous protests, civil disobedience movements, a battle at the ballot box... Twenty years after its handover to China on 1 July 1997, Hong Kong has become the centre of the anti-Beijing revolt. The former British colony, known for its skyscrapers and white-collar workers, has seen uprisings by young Hongkongers against Chinese rule.

>> Also watch our report: "Hong Kong in rebellion against the 'motherland'"

Although some are barely 20 years old - like the handover itself – all of them, from the streets to the parliament benches, want the winds of democracy to blow in Hong Kong. The leaders of the "umbrella revolution", such as Nathan Law, Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Andy Chan, have sometimes become elected officials who make officials in Beijing nervous. In September 2016, these young people, who had inspired thousands of demonstrators in the autumn of 2014 to demand free elections and more autonomy from China, made an unprecedented electoral breakthrough.

>> Also watch our interview: "Hong Kong's umbrella revolution is not dead"

Old guard and businessmen

But faced with those demanding more freedom and even independence, Beijing is locking down everything, even if that calls into question the fundamental principle of "one country, two systems" which has governed Hong Kong since its handover. The central government in Beijing can still count on the support of a large segment of the population, who strongly feel they belong to the Chinese nation.

For if anger rages in Hong Kong, it is precisely because the pro-democracy youngsters who want to distance themselves from China are opposed by another, older, generation, which proclaims its attachment to the mainland. The business community, which has benefited from the Chinese economic boom, is another reminder that Hong Kong cannot do without Beijing.

Twenty years after the handover of Hong Kong to China, our reporter went to take the pulse of a city that has not yet completed its transformation and which remains split between two generations, more divided than ever over their identity.

By Antoine VÉDEILHÉ

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