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China anniversary: Beijing celebrations mark 70 years of Communist rule

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A large military parade will be held in Beijing

China is set to host lavish events to mark 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

A large military and civic parade will be held in Beijing, with President Xi Jinping expected to give a speech.

On 1 October 1949, Mao Zedong – or Chairman Mao – announced the formation of the PRC, after communist forces won a bloody civil war.

Modern China has since developed at an extraordinary pace, but it has also one of the world’s most restrictive states.

The celebrations on Tuesday risked being overshadowed by ongoing protests in Hong Kong, where thousands of people were expected to take to the streets in protest against Beijing’s control over the territory’s society and politics.

Police said they had received credible intelligence that activists were planning a major violent escalation, setting fire to shops and train stations.

Hong Kong was in lockdown in the early hours of Tuesday, and some 6,000 officers were deployed in the territory. An annual fireworks display was cancelled and shopping centres were closed, the South China Morning Post reported.

The parade expected in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing will be among the biggest China has ever staged, involving 15,000 troops and a display of the nation’s newest military technology. President Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao, is expected to begin events with a speech and a troop inspection.

What is China celebrating?

Seventy years ago, Chairman Mao announced the birth of the PRC after the Communist Party of China defeated the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) – or National Party.

The two sides had been locked in a costly civil war since the 1920s, after the collapse of the imperial system.

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Media caption‘I was so proud and excited to join the parade’

The events will show that “the Chinese nation has stood up, grown rich and become stronger over the past decades”, say officials.

The events will show that “the Chinese nation has stood up, grown rich and become stronger over the past decades”, say officials.

“The main theme is to tell Chinese stories and express the Chinese people’s confidence in the party and the country,” said Zhang Ge, one of the officials responsible for the anniversary celebrations.

China says is it developing an entirely new political system – “socialism with Chinese characteristics” – and that it has raised millions out of poverty.

People holding pictures of Mao and the Little Red Book in Tiananmen Square, 1966


Timeline of modern China

  • 1949Mao declares the founding of the People’s Republic of China

  • 1966-76Cultural Revolution brings social and political upheaval

  • 1977Deng Xiaoping initiates major reforms of China’s economy

  • 1989Army crushes Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests

  • 2010China becomes the world’s second-largest economy

  • 2018Xi Jinping is cleared to be president for life

To its critics though, China is a deeply oppressive country turning back progress on global human rights.

It is widely criticised for its lack of democracy, suppression of rights and any sign of dissent, an unfair justice system with a 99% conviction rate, and in recent years the mass detention of ethnic Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, among other groups.

What will the military parade involve?

Huge amounts of weaponry will be on display, including army vehicles and domestically made missiles and launchers.

More than 150 aircraft – including stealth jets and strategic bombers – will fly in formations over the capital.

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Tens of thousands of troops will take part in the massive parade

That will be followed by what officials are calling a “happy and lively show” involving about 100,000 civilian performers on floats, from farmers and teacher to doctors and students. And then in the evening a gala performance will be held in the square.

The events are open to officials, select members and invited foreign dignitaries only, but they will be watched by hundreds of millions of people around the country.

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China says 100,000 people will take part in the civilian parade

Security has been high in central Beijing for weeks – there are strict controls on flying kites or drones around the parade area. Even racing pigeons have been banned.

Media censorship – always stringent in China – has been tightened even further, with broadcasters given a set list of programmes to play and internet censors removing any online criticism of the Communist Party or its leaders.

What is happening in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong has been a part of China since 1997 but has its own system of law and government – known as One Country Two Systems.

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A surge of protests in Hong Kong could overshadow the celebrations in Beijing

But in recent years there has been increasing opposition to what has been seen as the growing influence of Beijing on Hong Kong’s society and politics.

Hong Kong always sees anti-Beijing protests on 1 October, and this year they are expected to be larger than ever, because of the months of unrest triggered by proposed changed to the extradition law.

The changes would have made it possible for China to extradite people to the mainland from Hong Kong, something opponents felt put Hong Kongers at risk of persecution in unfair trials.

For nearly four months, protesters have turned out – at times in the millions.

The proposed changes to the extradition law have officially been scrapped but that has failed to quell the unrest which has now evolved into an existential battle over Hong Kong’s future.

The protesters are now demanding full democracy for the territory and for police to be held accountable over the use of force, among other issues.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s leader, will be in Beijing on National Day.

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