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China celebrates its 70th National Day as Hong Kong braces for protests: Live updates

運営事務局 JIMOPLE 72 October 1, 2019

A mall cinema in Beijing is promoting two main films -- a propaganda film and one about Communist leader Mao Zedong.
A mall cinema in Beijing is promoting two main films -- a propaganda film and one about Communist leader Mao Zedong. Ben Westcott/CNN

At a mall in Beijing, hundreds of red flags cover every surface, from the displays to the edges of the roof. 

A Communist Party propaganda film plays in an elevator's small TV screen, followed by an advertisement for a patriotic movie which opened nationwide on Tuesday, ”Me and My Country.”

In a cinema on the top floor, which will be holding an exclusive screening of the 70th anniversary military parade, Chinese flags adorn the popcorn display. 

The main films being teased are "Me and My Country" and a film about the People's Republic founder Mao Zedong.

Inside the cinema, almost all the moviegoers are wearing red flag pins, showing the Chinese or Communist flags, while children carry their own small flags. 

In total, 70 cinemas across the country will be showing the march, although it is unclear whether anyone could attend, or only Communist Party members.

Moviegoers at a cinema in Beijing, China, on October 1, 2019.
Moviegoers at a cinema in Beijing, China, on October 1, 2019. Ben Westcott/CNN
Members of a Chinese honor guard stand in formation before a ceremony to mark Martyr's Day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Monday.
Members of a Chinese honor guard stand in formation before a ceremony to mark Martyr's Day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Monday. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/Getty Images)

Beijing isn't taking any chances ahead of today's massive military parade.

As of monday evening, all roads leading to Tiananmen Square were sealed-off, rendering large parts of the inner city entirely inaccessible.

The subway has also stopped running trains to the area around the square.

But some of the toughest measures have been reserved for the city's hundreds of pet birds and racing pigeons.

Since September 15, pet birds have been banned from flying in the city, to keep the skies clear for the parade and its numerous rehearsals.

Drones and kites have also been banned from the skies until after October 1.

Speaking at a National Day event this morning, Hong Kong's acting-Chief Executive Matthew Cheung could not ignore the protests which have roiled the semi autonomous Chinese city for months now.

Hong Kong's number two, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung (3rd R), speaks during National Day celebrations in Hong Kong on October 1, 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of communist China's founding.
Hong Kong's number two, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung (3rd R), speaks during National Day celebrations in Hong Kong on October 1, 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of communist China's founding. MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

Cheung, whose boss Carrie Lam is in Beijing for the official celebrations, said that "Hong Kong people desperately yearn to get out of the existing gridlock."

"We will continue to engage in dialogue with the community and interact with the public in different forms to truly reach out to the community with an open and humble attitude," Cheung said, adding that the government "will adopt a people-oriented attitude and new thinking in tackling the deep-seated problems and social conflicts that have long beset the general public."
Hong Kong and Chinese flags fly over Bauhinia Square in the city's Wan Chai district on October 1, 2019.
Hong Kong and Chinese flags fly over Bauhinia Square in the city's Wan Chai district on October 1, 2019. Josh Berlinger/CNN

Speaking at an event that was itself targeted by protesters, leading to police deploying pepper spray before 9 a.m. this morning, Cheung said he hoped Hong Kong "can weather every storm we meet, seize any opportunity before us and continue to thrive in the years ahead."

All across China's internet, people and companies are showing their patriotism ahead of today's National Day celebrations.

On social media sites, people are putting the red flag of the People's Republic in their display photos.

What started as a trickle became a flood on Monday as more and more profile pictures turned red on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media site, and WeChat, a Facebook-like messenger service.

Apps quickly got in on the trend with China's Uber-style service, Didi, changing their banner red to celebrate the anniversary.

Even state-run media was taking part in the trend. People's Daily, the Communist Party's official paper, has issued two apps inviting users to upload a profile picture and see themselves in the different costumes of China's 56 officially recognized minority groups. But no matter your outfit, stuck to your face is a red love heart with the five yellow stars of the Chinese flag.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a press conference on September 24, 2019 in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a press conference on September 24, 2019 in Hong Kong. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's embattled Chief Executive, is in Beijing today for the National Day celebrations.

She is there with a delegation of 240 people from various Hong Kong sectors, and will return to the city tonight.

Lam has been at the center of the raging protests all summer. She first promoted the controversial extradition bill, sparking mass opposition marches. Then, she suspended the bill -- but protesters remained suspicious it could be restarted. By the time she finally fully withdrew the bill in September, many saw this as too little, too late, and the demands of the movement had expanded to include longstanding issues such as restarting the political reform process.

An attempt at dialogue: Last week, Lam held a community dialogue session with members of the public, the first such meeting since anti-government protests began 17 weeks ago.

Outside the venue, a few hundred protesters shouted slogans, calling on Lam to meet their demands. Many saw the community dialogue as a government public relations stunt -- 20,000 people had applied to attend and only 150 were pre-selected in a lottery.

"This is not a political or a PR show but to seek change. We hope this change will shape a better Hong Kong. While this change might be difficult, I believe we should start now," Lam said at the event. "The dialogue is aimed so we can change, the aim to change is so Hong Kong, the city we love can become better."

The Chinese government has pulled out all the stops ahead of October 1 to promote the 70th anniversary and a quiet excitement is detectable in parts of the city.

In Dongcheng district, 67-year-old retired worker Guo Fucheng said he was going to watch the parade at home with his dog, Feifei.

"China has been through so many rains and storms ... I feel very proud of our country, we now have more say on the global stage," he said.

Retired worker Fucheng Guo and his dog Feifei, who will be watching the parade together on October 1.
Retired worker Fucheng Guo and his dog Feifei, who will be watching the parade together on October 1. CNN/Ben Westcott

On monday evening, two university students out shopping in Beijing's traditional hutongs said that they planned to watch the parade in the morning and then head to cinemas to see the newly released pro-China propaganda film, "Me and My Home Country."

"I feel everyone is excited because it is our country's 70th anniversary," 22-year-old Xiong Xing said.
22-year-old Xiong Xing and her friend
22-year-old Xiong Xing and her friend
Police clashing with protesters in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, on October 1, 2019.
Police clashing with protesters in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, on October 1, 2019. NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

Unrest in Hong Kong is kicking off early today -- there were reports of protesters being pepper sprayed by police as early as 8 in the morning.

Pro-democracy protesters in the Wan Chai district carried a mock coffin as they attempted to reach official celebrations around the city's convention center, sparking scuffles. More fights may continue later in the day as the protesters fan out across the city, with demonstrations planned in at least six different districts.

Protesters in Hong Kong carry a fake coffin as part of a demonstration on October 1, 2019.
Protesters in Hong Kong carry a fake coffin as part of a demonstration on October 1, 2019. NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images
Smog hangs over the Chinese capital of Beijing on Monday, one day out from the October 1 celebrations.
Smog hangs over the Chinese capital of Beijing on Monday, one day out from the October 1 celebrations. CNN/Ben Westcott

For Beijing residents, one of the few upsides to the frustration and inconvenience of a major Communist Party event in Beijing is the crystal-clear blue skies.

But ahead of National Day, Beijing's ever-present smog has stubbornly refused to lift and the local government now says it'll likely hang over today's events.

The forecast for October 1 is expected to rank above 150 on the Air Quality Index, or "unhealthy" levels of pollution.

It's an embarrassment for President Xi Jinping, whose last major parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in 2015 was held under pristine blue skies.

A 2016 report found that the Chinese government regularly shuts down factories and pulls cars off the road to reduce smog ahead of major events.

There's no word on why the past week's smog has stubbornly refused to lift.

Hong Kong's subway, MTR, has closed its Admiralty, Wan Chai, and Prince Edward stations ahead of protests planned for later today.

Admiralty and Wan Chai tend to be hot spots for protests, as they are home to many government buildings and police headquarters. MTR stations themselves have also increasingly become targets for protesters angry at what they see as "collusion" between the subway system and the government and police.

Graffiti on an MTR subway station in Hong Kong. The system has increasingly become a target of protests.
Graffiti on an MTR subway station in Hong Kong. The system has increasingly become a target of protests. Josh Berlinger/CNN

MTR said the changes were due to "upcoming public activities."

After 11 a.m., MTR will also close the stations at:

  • Causeway Bay
  • Sham Shui Po
  • Wong Tai Sin
  • Sha Tin
  • Che Kung Temple
  • Tsuen Wan
  • Tsuen Wan West
  • Tuen Mun

Trains will not stop at the above stations after 11. Find out more here.