Soldiers, tanks and high-tech weapons file past Tiananmen Square to celebrate China's journey to become the world's second-largest economy. Meanwhile, police in restive Hong Kong shoot and wound a protester in fresh demonstrations against Beijing.

Fireworks explode over Tiananmen Square as performers take part in the evening gala marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019.
Fireworks explode over Tiananmen Square as performers take part in the evening gala marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019. (Reuters)

President Xi Jinping declared on Tuesday that "no force" can shake the Chinese nation as he oversaw a massive military celebration of 70 years of Communist Party rule, shadowed by a day of protest in seething Hong Kong that threatened to steal the spotlight.

Standing on the Tiananmen Rostrum where Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, Xi extolled the "Chinese dream" of national rejuvenation – his grand vision of restoring the country to perceived past glory.

"There is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation," Xi said, wearing a "Mao suit" as he stood alongside party leaders in Tiananmen Square.

"No force that can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation forging ahead," the country's most powerful leader since Mao said before riding in an open-roof car to review troops.

TRT World's Philip Owira has this report.

A symbolic 70-gun salute was fired at the square and the red national flag was raised to begin festivities held under tight security, with road closures and even a ban on flying kites.

New – including a hypersonic drone and an intercontinental ballistic missile whose range encompasses the United States – are expected to make their public debut among hundreds of pieces of military equipment and aircraft, according to Paris-based analysts.

But behind the festivities, a clutch of challenges tests Xi's ability to maintain economic and political stability.

"The party hopes that this occasion will add to its legitimacy and rally support at a time of internal and external challenges," Adam Ni, China researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, told AFP.

US trade war negotiations have dragged on, and African swine fever has raced through the country's pig supply, sending pork prices soaring.

A protesters throws a Molotov cocktail in Hong Kong on October 1, 2019, as violent demonstrations take place in the streets of the city on the National Day holiday to mark the 70th anniversary of communist China's founding.
A protesters throws a Molotov cocktail in Hong Kong on October 1, 2019, as violent demonstrations take place in the streets of the city on the National Day holiday to mark the 70th anniversary of communist China's founding. (AFP)

Hong Kong reacts, police shoot protester

But the major headache is Hong Kong, where anti-Beijing protesters hit the streets early in defiance of a police ban on demonstrations.

During the protest, police shot a protester at close range, leaving him bleeding from his shoulder and howling on the ground. 

Video of the shooting that spread quickly on social media appeared to show the officer opening fire as the protester came at him with a baton, striking the officer's shooting arm.

Taken by the City University Student Union, it showed a dozen black-clad protesters hurling objects at a group of riot police and closing in on the lone officer who pointed his revolver and opened fire on the protester who collapsed on the street, bleeding from below his left shoulder.

As another protester rushed in to try to drag away the injured protester and was tackled by an officer, a gasoline bomb landed in the middle of the group of officers in an explosion of flames.

Police had earlier said they were expecting violence across the city, warning it could be "very, very dangerous", while masked protesters said that "in the face of tyranny, we can only fight as if our last battle".

Officers fanned out across the territory and small pockets of demonstrators marched through the streets for what they dubbed a "Day of Grief", while local officials watched a flag-raising ceremony behind closed doors.

The semi-autonomous city has been embroiled for months in the worst unrest since Britain returned it to China in 1997, with police and hardcore protesters trading tear gas and petrol bombs.

Xi vowed Monday to continue to "fully and faithfully implement" the one country, two systems policy under which Hong Kongers enjoy freedoms unseen on the mainland.

'Protect its interests' 

Access to the Beijing parade was restricted with police turning away crowds lining up with flags in the hope of seeing a glimpse of the military procession. 

Movie theatres organised screenings of the celebrations.

The military show of force will be followed by a pageant involving 100,000 civilians and 70 floats depicting China's greatest achievements. 

Organisers will release 70,000 doves and 70,000 balloons before an evening performance and fireworks in Tiananmen.

"Beijing wants to highlight its military modernisation, political unity, and determination to protect its interests," Ni said.

Authorities usually close factories to ensure blue skies during major events, but unhealthy smog covered the Chinese capital on Tuesday.

Party adapts 

The Communist Party has repeatedly defied the odds to remain in power for seven decades.

Under Mao, tens of millions of people died during the disastrous Great Leap Forward, and the country was plunged into violent chaos during the decade-long Cultural Revolution.

After Mao's death in 1976, the party launched the reform and opening-up policy under paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, starting decades of breakneck growth and development.

But the party retained a stranglehold on power, sending troops to end the biggest challenge to its rule in 1989 when pro-democracy protesters occupied Tiananmen Square.

Xi has made clear that he believes only the Communist Party can make the country realise its dream – with him at the helm.

"The Communist Party will continue to ensure that it remains the sole political authority in China," said Drew Thompson, visiting senior research fellow at Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

"It will continue to adapt to do that and it will continue to seek to provide social goods and economic goods for its people, and as long as it continues to deliver those public goods, then it will likely stay in power, but the manner by which it does I think will change over time."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies