- Hong Kong prepares for a potentially huge protest against Chinese political interference
- Annual demonstration buoyed by recent political activities in the city
- Chinese government and state-run media warn against Hong Kong residents embracing the pro-democracy movement
- China's microblogging site Weibo shows mixed reaction to events in Hong Kong
As potentially hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens prepare to take to the streets in a now-annual display of public disapproval of Beijing's interference in the city's affairs, voices in China's state-run press are warning that the protests are a bad idea.
Every year, on the anniversary of the city's return to Chinese rule, pro-democracy protestors take part in huge, peaceful protests against what they see as the heavy-handed influence of the central government.
Hong Kong is governed according to China's "one country, two systems" model, enjoying a high degree of autonomy in its government, judiciary, and legal systems under a leadership approved by Beijing.
Organizers are hoping that this year's march may see a particularly large turnout, following an unofficial referendum -- held by activist group Occupy Central -- that ended on June 29 with a total of nearly 800,000 ballots cast in support of free elections for the city's next leader. The figure represents about 22% of registered voters in Hong Kong, out of a total of 3.5 million registered voters.
As well as the march, which begins in the city's Victoria Park and ends in the Central business district, this year will see an overnight sit-in, which has been planned for after the march. The Federation of Students and Scholarism will camp overnight on Chater Road, the city's business heart, as well as outside the government offices in the Admiralty district of downtown Hong Kong, until Wednesday morning.
The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council emphasized on Monday that the referendum is "illegal and invalid." The following day the Chinese edition of the Global Times, a state-run publication known for its uncompromising op-eds, published an editorial warning that recent pro-democracy activities -- including the referendum, as well as the upcoming rally and sit-in, are polarising Hong Kong society.
The article urges Hong Kong people not to be "kidnapped" by the radical opposition.
Another state mouthpiece, the English-language China Daily, points out in an article that political forces calling for full autonomy in Hong Kong are ignoring economic realities.
"Without the mainland, (Hong Kong) would be left with only half of its trade, one-fourth of its foreign investment and visitors, not to mention only one-tenth of its water and food supply," the piece says.
The Global Times also reports that it polled 1,434 people in major cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai, and found that 77% of respondents think Hong Kong's future should be jointly decided by the entire population of China, and 82% polled said that they would support the government to take strong moves to maintain stability should riots in Hong Kong occur.
Weibo, China's microblogging platform, showed a more diverse range of opinions on Hong Kong's recent pro-democracy activities, with users in the the mainland, with positions ranging from support to scathing criticism of Hong Kong's political aspirations.
"Hong Kong people know where their interest lies in and they don't need your (Global Times) phony kindness," said user @lddldd0000. "Hong Kong stand up!" The view was echoed by @Pianyezhiqiu, who posted: "Residents in Hong Kong have political ideals. They're not like the puppets who only chase after benefits."
However, not all netizens were as tolerant of Hong Kong's political experiments. "The 'referendum,' 'occupy central,' such and such are against the Basic Law, and therefore, the acts are invalid and illegal," said @ htkg2011.
User @Mingweizhe was a little more phlegmatic.
"Let's ignore them. Let Hong Kong people handle their own business."