Xi Vows Commitment to China’s Unification as Parade Kicks Off

(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off a parade marking 70 years of Communist rule in China, as pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong planned to upset the celebrations with a series of potentially violent protests.

The Oct. 1 National Day events in Beijing include a speech from Xi, as well as a military parade past Tiananmen Square expected to show off China’s most advanced weaponry, including ballistic missiles and warplanes. In Hong Kong, where protests have rocked the financial hub for 17 straight weekends, residents braced for numerous protests to push back against China’s tightening grip over the city.

Here’s the latest (all times local):

Xi pledges national unity (10:15 a.m.)

Xi vowed to press ahead with the “complete unification of the country” in a speech to start a grand military parade through Tiananmen Square. The address, which referenced similar remarks Mao Zedong made proclaiming the People’s Republic’s founding on Oct. 1, 1949, briefly touched the status of Hong Kong, saying China remained committed to the “one country, two systems” framework that has governed the Asian financial center since its return from British rule in 1997.

“China yesterday is already engraved in the history of mankind,” Xi said, wearing the dark tunic Communist Party chiefs don for such occasions. “China today is created by hundreds of millions of hard-working Chinese. And China tomorrow will be even more prosperous.”

The president, who also serves as head of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, then rode past the assembled troops standing in the sunroof a dark Red Flag limousine. “Follow the party! Fight to win! Build exemplary conduct!” the troops chanted as he passed.

Xi arrives in Tiananmen Square (10 a.m.)

Xi arrived in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square accompanied by current and former state leaders, including predecessors Hu Jintao, 76, and Jiang Zemin, 93. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gave an official pronouncement to start the ceremony, followed by an honor guard marching from the Monument to the People’s Heroes across the square to the fire of a 70-gun salute. The national flag was raised as Xi sang along with the country’s anthem, “March of the Volunteers.”

Smoggy skies in Beijing (9:30 a.m.)

The Chinese capital was wreathed in a visible layer of thick smog Tuesday morning as columns of Chinese troops lined up for the military parade in Beijing. The city was ranked the seventh most polluted city in the world by AirVisual, while the U.S. embassy air pollution monitor in Beijing showed an air quality index of 159. Generally, policy makers in Beijing — who have been praised for making progress on smog in recent years — try and reduce air pollution ahead of major events by shutting down industry or through other measures. A number of other Chinese cities — including Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing — were among the top 12 most polluted cities in the world along with Hong Kong, according to AirVisual.

Cheung vows dialogue (8:12 a.m.)

Hong Kong’s acting leader, Matthew Cheung, said China continues to be “strongly supportive” of the city’s government to govern the city amid the wave of unrest. “Some radical protesters have consistently escalated violence, including illegal assembly, blocking roads, throwing petrol bombs, setting fires and attacking citizens,” Cheung “It’s not only harming the social order, but also impacting on the rule of law in the city and citizens’ safety, as well as weighing further on the economy, which has already seen downward pressure.”

He also warned about the economic fallout from the protests, saying “trade relationships have turned complicated in recent months and are getting severe.” Cheung reaffirmed Hong Kong’s commitment to dialogue, days after Chief Executive Carrie Lam faced a barrage of questions about her government’s handling of the unrest during her first town-hall-style dialogue session.

More train stations closed (8 a.m.)

Amid planned protests on Tuesday, subway operator MTR Corp. announced additional station closures as a “prudent measure to ensure the safety of passengers and our staff.” The operator said the Causeway Bay, Sham Shui Po, Wong Tai Sin, Sha Tin, Che Kung Temple, Tsuen Wan West and Tuen Mun stations would be closed from 11 a.m. The transit company had earlier said that the central Admiralty and Wan Chai stations, as well as Kowloon’s Prince Edward station, would remain closed.

Flag raising ceremony (8 a.m.)

Riot cops guarded an early morning flag-raising ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in the center of the city amid worries that protesters would try and disrupt the event. Lam left the event to her number 2 official, chief secretary Cheung, after announcing that she would travel to Beijing for the festivities.

Subway closures (10:45 p.m., Monday)

The MTR Corp. announced various subway closures on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon ahead of the Oct. 1 protests. The transit company said its trains would not stop at the city’s central Admiralty and Wan Chai stops or the Prince Edward station on the other side of the harbor.

Li Ka-shing declines Beijing’s invite (8:30 p.m., Monday)

Hong Kong tycoons Li Ka-shing and Peter Woo declined invitations to attend National Day celebrations in Beijing, because of “private reasons,” the South China Morning Post newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The two billionaires had received the invitations before recent controversies about their stances on the protests in Hong Kong, the Post said.

–With assistance from Aaron Mc Nicholas and Peter Martin.

To contact the reporters on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at [email protected];Annie Lee in Hong Kong at [email protected];James Mayger in Beijing at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at [email protected]

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