Policeman pass through a cordon line in the city centre on the PRC national day in Hong Kong.
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One Country. Two National Days: Mainland China celebrations contrast sharply with heavy policing in Hong Kong

The facts: About half a billion Chinese tourists packed travel destinations on mainland China to celebrate the country’s National Day, the first major Chinese holiday since the Covid-19 outbreak. Hong Kong, by contrast, marked October 1 with arrests of at least 86 anti-government protestors and heavy police tactics in the streets.

This is China’s first major national holiday since the implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong in June. Unlike last year when anti-government demonstrations turned violent, protester numbers this time were much reduced and those who did turn out were forced to scatter, outnumbered by the 6,000 police officers reportedly deployed, and by over-the-top security tactics such as random stop-and-search. 

What to watch: In Hong Kong, October 1 was a litmus test for the new National Security Law. The heavy-handed measures, legitimized by the new law, have worked in Beijing’s favor, dampening the overall anti-government demonstrations. On the mainland, by contrast, the Golden Week was a litmus test for China’s economic rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic. Visitor numbers and tourism receipts are, however, down from years past, an indication that Chinese consumers remain cautious about the pandemic. Rightly so, as cases climbed briefly during the first few days of the week. Economic data showed that consumers are tightening their belts. This could prove a challenge for Xi Jinping’s Dual Circulation Strategy to reboot the economy through domestic consumption.

MERICS analysis: In the name of returning stability to Hong Kong, China makes no apologies for the heavy policing. Bolstered security forces went all out to quell unrest on one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar. Beijing is likely to hail the outcome as a success and attribute it to the recently installed National Security Law.

MERICS Chief Economist Max J. Zenglein has analyzed the situation of Hong Kong’s economy, learn more here.

Our newly published chronology recounts crucial events of the 100 days of National Security Law in Hong Kong.

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This article is part of the October 8, 2020 issue of MERICS China Briefing.