Patriotic anniversary coverage tries to paper over the cracks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am


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Mainland media covered the 15th anniversary of the handover with a patriotic fervour usually showered only upon a new president or conquering astronauts returning home.

People's Daily set the tone by running a large picture of President Hu Jintao with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, with a headline in bold type and festive red that read: 'Fellow Hong Kong people celebrate the 15th anniversary of the return to China'.

The homepage of Xinhua's news portal followed suit, with the party's mouthpiece proudly announcing that the past 15 years of Hong Kong under China was a 'new miracle' and a 'tale of the East'.

'With the fireworks and lovely music, everyone was immersed in a happy and joyful mood,' the article said. An editorial published on the website said the 'one country, two systems' policy would bring Hong Kong a better future.

'Persist in the notion of 'one country' and respect the idea of 'two systems',' the overseas edition of People's Daily said.

China Central Television continued with the exuberance, airing a show on Wednesday about a mainland woman who was happy working with a non-governmental organisation based in Hong Kong.

'I love to eat Beijing roast duck, but I also like Hong Kong's barbecue duck,' the young Beijing native said.

The show said she represented a new generation of mainlanders in Hong Kong - multicultural and engaged.

The Shanghai Morning Post devoted five pages to coverage of the handover. On its front page, Shanghai's top-selling newspaper borrowed a line from a popular song by Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing and Anthony Wong Yiu-ming, So Far, So Close, saying Hong Kong and the mainland had a mutual trust that would lead to a brighter future for both sides.

Amid the positive coverage blanketing online media, Sina Weibo was alone in offering mainlanders an accurate picture of the July 1 events. As media outside the mainland reported, tens of thousands of residents took to the streets to protest against what they say is Beijing's increasing dominance over the city's affairs.

Wong himself posted pictures on his Sina Weibo account, showing his participation in one of the protests.

One reader posted a comment saying: 'Now I can see people in Hong Kong are celebrating the return in different ways.'

The reply was posted under a photo of a protester holding a picture of Leung with a big 'No' written across his face.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times, offered his own view of the protest. He blogged: 'This is very common. Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong, and the central government has no right to govern [the city]. I believe the government does not want to interfere in Hong Kong's local affairs.' That tone was echoed in the editorial the paper ran on Monday. Titled 'The mainland is Hong Kong's cheerleader and will stand together through hardship', the editorial criticised western media's interpretation of Chinese affairs.

'The western media said a lot about Hong Kong's problems and difficulties, but none of the major media dare say the return was a mistake ... Some people were worried free speech would be undermined, but in fact that has not happened ... Today we hear complaints in Hong Kong, but those complaints have nothing to do with the handover. They were the result of either the international financial crisis or common problems besetting all modern societies.'

Some mainland media ran reports comparing the mainland and Hong Kong. The Beijing News said in an editorial Hong Kong had become more 'China-like' in the past 15 years and many mainland cities were more like Hong Kong.

'The distance between the mainland and Hong Kong has never been so little,' it said. The editorial listed four 'treasures' of today's Hong Kong - an effective legal environment, a well-organised business environment, a clean administration and a stable social security system.

Shenzhen's Jing Bao praised the central role the legal system played in governing Hong Kong, compared to Shenzhen, where guanxi often dominated.

'Hong Kong is a city with dignity ... a city will only succeed if its citizens can live with dignity, and a city will only be a pleasant place to live if it provides a free environment for its citizens.'