A family takes a selfie with Chinese national and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region flags along a street in Hong Kong to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, Oct 1, 2021. (VINCENT YU/AP)
HONG KONG – Workers busily tilted the two-meter-high water barriers to release the liquid inside, and one by one, the giant white plastic containers were forklifted onto vans and removed from the headquarters of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on the heels of the National Day.
The water barriers, which had been standing in front of the government headquarters since 2019 to defend the government from the attacks by brick and Molotov cocktail-throwing rioters, were finally removed after two years, symbolizing that Hong Kong has returned from chaos to normalcy.
Water barriers in other locations, including the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR that had been targeted by rioters in the social unrest in 2019, have also been removed.
On this year's National Day, Hong Kong residents held various activities to joyfully celebrate the holiday. Five-star red flags dazzle the city of over 7 million people and classic patriotic songs such as Me and My Motherland echo through the air – a stunning contrast to the scenes on the same day two years ago.
READ MORE: HK celebrates 72nd National Day
Lee Tung Street, known as the Wedding Card Street by locals and located just a few blocks away from the HKSAR government offices, saw a surge in visitors who came to take pictures of more than 100 red national flags and HKSAR flags hung above.
Lee Tung Street, known as the Wedding Card Street by locals and located just a few blocks away from the HKSAR government offices, saw a surge in visitors who came to take pictures of more than 100 red national flags and HKSAR flags hung above
In Mong Kok, Kowloon, a street counter of a local civil society organization – The Storm of Hong Kong distributed 5,000 small national flags to enthusiastic passers-by in less than half an hour.
"Our country has effectively reined in the COVID-19 epidemic. At the Tokyo Olympic Games, the national team and the Hong Kong team have achieved good results," said Tsui Tin-man, chairman of the organization. "Hong Kong will have a bright future as long as the country is strong."
A first-year student at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which was upended by rioting in 2019, asked her roommate to take a picture of her and the high-flying five-star red flag after a flag-raising ceremony attended by over 700 teachers and students was held on campus in serenity.
"I can feel the strong bond of everyone with the country. We are proud of the development of our country," she told a Xinhua reporter.
Chief Executive of the HKSAR Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said this year's National Day is of special significance to Hong Kong.
The SAR has truly got on the right track of "one country, two systems" under the double safeguards of the national security law in Hong Kong and the improved electoral system, she said at a reception celebrating the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Hong Kong residents display a Chinese national flag for the celebration of the National Day, at the waterfront of the Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, Oct 1, 2021. (KIN CHEUNG/AP)
Hong Kong is now in the best position ever since its return to the motherland to leverage its unique advantages under "one country, two systems" in seeking to integrate into the national development and create a bright future, Lam said.
As Hong Kong has turned a new page, the central government and the HKSAR government are stepping up efforts to remove the obstacles to Hong Kong's development by addressing deep-seated problems.
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Luo Huining, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, visited fishermen, young entrepreneurs, community residents, street shops, and residents in bed-space apartments ahead of the National Day. He conveyed the central government's care for the livelihood of the grassroots in Hong Kong, and listened to their opinions and suggestions.
Luo said the central government attaches great importance to Hong Kong's economy and people's livelihood, noting that 21 policies were introduced recently to benefit the Hong Kong people in different industries.
"The fundamental purpose is to allow ordinary people to live a better life. Only when the life of the general public is better and the sense of happiness is strong, can Hong Kong develop well," Luo said.
Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao, one of the oldest Chinese language newspapers, said in a commentary that more and more Hong Kong people recognize their Chinese identity and that the country is the most staunch backer of Hong Kong.
"A National Day more festive than before reflects a better Hong Kong," said the newspaper.