Hong Kong may be the most open place in China, but not today. The airport in the city were in a lockdown for the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Police guarded him and his sensibilities. Protest signs have been banned from his view. Xi calls this week's anniversary a "happy event."
"We'll work with different parts of society," he says, "to learn from the past 20 years how to give Hong Kong a stable future." But many here don't trust Beijing. Last night, protesters chained themselves to a monument symbolizing Chinese friendship. They demanded more freedom. Over the past years, these confrontations and arrests have increased as China moves to limit dissent.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. When China agreed to respect Hong Kong's system 20 years ago, many even predicted that Hong Kong would change China. Democratic ideas and free speech would drift north, along with a more open economy. Instead, now, China seems to be changing Hong Kong.
"It's a recipe for more instability," says Anson Chan. She was Hong Kong's top civil servant when it was taken over by Beijing from the British. "They don't no longer care about perception. They certainly do not care about what Hong Kong people think."
Some here have even advocated independence. Beijing supporters say that's the real reason for China's assertiveness.
"You could criticize Chinese government or even the Communist Party. But if you go beyond that red line to pursue the path of, you know, independence, then they won't be tolerated."
This week, very little is tolerated. But the activists on this rooftop keep painting, still set on hanging pro-democracy banners Xi Jinping will see.
Sasa Petricic, CBC News, Hong Kong.
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