Hong Kong police arrested 231 people after a demonstration at the weekend, coinciding with the 14th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China and the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party.
The 231 were detained for refusing to disperse after the march ended, charged with illegal assembly and causing obstruction in public places. Most were later let go or released on bail.
The protest organisers claim a total of 218,000 people took to the streets on Friday, though Hong Kong police estimated the crowd at 54,000. Organisers said the high turnout was due to a controversial government proposal to scrap by-elections if a seat is vacant and instead fill it based on previous results. Protestors were also upset with other government policies and rising property prices.
July protests in Hong Kong are a yearly affair, but analysts have warned that the current level of dissatisfaction with Hong Kong's government is close to the levels in 2003, when a record 500,000 people took part in the annual pro-democracy march.
Report: Hong Kong arrests 231 after anti-government demo [AFP, 2 July 2011]
A Hong Kong journalists' group has warned that freedom of expression in Hong Kong has deteriorated, claiming the territory has become intolerant of dissent since returning to Chinese rule.
In theory Hong Kong retains a semi-autonomous status under the "one country, two systems" model, with civil liberties including freedom of speech not enjoyed in mainland China. But in their annual freedom of expression report, the Hong Kong Journalists Association said there are "growing and disturbing signs that the 'one-country' element is overriding 'two systems'."
The report said Beijing has "become more aggressive" in its policy towards Hong Kong, resulting in the territory barring visits by mainland dissidents, while the country's police have become less tolerant of protesters. Journalists now face growing restrictions in reporting, especially in coverage of public protests.
A television journalist was among those arrested this weekend.
In response to the report, Hong Kong's government issued a statement saying it would continue to be "open and accountable" but did not plan to enact a freedom of information law called for by the Journalists Association.
Report: Hong Kong journalists say freedom under threat (AFP, 3 June 2011)
In contrast, China's media has hailed Hong Kong as living proof that "one country two systems" has worked.
An editorial published in the state-funded China Daily praised the "tolerance and space Beijing has given this special administrative region so far", citing the government's acceptance of regular demonstrations as proof of greater liberty.
Analysis: Hong Kong: Fifty years no change (China Daily, 3 July 2011)
This weekend was also the 90th anniversary of China's Communist Party, an occasion marked by great ceremony across the country.
Speaking at a grand rally in Beijing, President Hu Jintao praised the party's achievements to date. But he also warned that “the whole party is confronted with growing danger of lacking in drive, incompetence, divorce from the people, lacking in initiative, and corruption”.
Hu added that party members must remember that all people are equal before the law, and pledged greater efforts to fight corruption. He said the leadership "must always place the people's interests before everything else."
Report: Hu Jintao delivers keynote speech at rally marking CPC's 90th anniversary[Xinhua, 1 July 2011]
But critics say China's leaders are still not paying enough attention to the true scope of problems facing the country, warning of increasing discontent. The past few weeks have seen riots involving migrant workers in the south, and unrest in Inner Mongolia among ethnic Mongol farmers.
Hu warned in his speech that the greatest danger facing the party is alienation from the people. While the Communist Party has over 80 million members, fewer than 9 percent of them are are classified as “workers”. More than 70 percent are government officials, businessmen, professionals, college graduates and the military.
Analysis: China’s political anniversary: a long cycle nears its end [Financial Times, 1 July 2011]