Wet weather marks flag-raising ceremony for 67th National Day, with small protest group unable to reach event

Lawmaker ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung and a band of 20 protesters chanting for the release of Chinese dissidents failed to gatecrash Golden Bauhinia Square

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 October, 2016, 12:11pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 October, 2016, 1:06pm

As the flag-raising ceremony marking the 67th National Day commenced outside the Convention and Exhibition Centre on a rainy Saturday morning, the umbrella – held by many government officials to shield themselves from the rain, but also an iconic symbol of anti-government protests two years ago – brought a sense of irony.

Seconds before the national and Hong Kong flags were to be raised, Zhang Xiaoming, chief of the central government liaison office in the city, abruptly put down his burgundy red umbrella and braved the drizzle.

Zhang was soon followed by Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, wife of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. She had been holding the umbrella for herself and her husband.

Dozens of other guests standing in the Golden Bauhinia Square continued to hold up their umbrellas in the rain.

The Occupy protest in 2014 was also called the Umbrella Movement after pictures of protesters holding umbrellas to resist police officers armed with pepper spray circulated worldwide.

Yellow umbrellas were then used as the symbol for the longest pro-democracy protest in the city’s post-colonial history.

Inside the square, spectators waving miniature flags brought umbrellas and raincoats to watch the ceremony, while some left as they were not prepared for the wet weather.

Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen – who is due in court in January next year for misconduct charges – and his wife were among the guests.

But Tsang’s predecessor, Tung Chee-hwa, was absent.

Student Tina Tang said she came with her father because the day also marked her tenth birthday, but the both of them were disappointed.

“There were many people blocking the view and it was raining,” she said.

Housewife Zou Lirong, 35, said she intentionally brought her 5-year-old son from Shenzhen to watch the ceremony.

“He’s starting to develop feelings for his country so I brought him here to experience this,” she added. “Lately he’s into the national anthem, singing it at home every day.”

Meanwhile Yu Hong, 57, from Beijing, said the ceremony reflected the bond between China and Hong Kong.

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“I love Hong Kong and [this ceremony] shows how friendly we are with Hong Kong,” she said.

About 20 protesters led by lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung attempted to reach the square as they chanted for the release of Chinese dissidents while marching all the way from Southorn Playground in Wan Chai.

They also called for the end of one-party rule and pursuit of justice for the Tiananmen Square crackdown on June 4, 1989, but the procession only managed to reach the doorstep of Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel.

The group left after burning their petition letter.

Meanwhile, the chief executive led his officials and guests into the Convention and Exhibition Centre for the National Day reception.

The Observatory issued the amber rainstorm warning signal at 5.25am, and raised it to red after 30 minutes, before lowering it back to amber at 7am. All rainstorm warnings were cancelled by 7.35am.

Weather forecasters expect the rest of the day to be mainly cloudy, with showers and heavy thunderstorms, at a maximum temperature of 27 degrees Celsius.