HONG KONG - Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters chanted and booed outside a ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of Communist China Wednesday, with crowds expected to reach their biggest yet as the city starts a two-day public holiday.
Politicians from Hong Kong and the mainland clinked champagne glasses to mark China's National Day while protesters campaigning for free elections gathered in the surrounding streets, after a third night of demonstrations.
Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying has faced mounting calls to resign and accusations of failing to engage with protesters after their "Umbrella Revolution" campaign for unfettered universal suffrage sparked the biggest civil unrest in decades.
As the Chinese and Hong Kong flags were raised at 8 am (midnight GMT) in Golden Bauhinia Square, in the downtown district of Wanchai, singing protesters were clearly audible. The crowds booed as two helicopters flew overhead, one bearing a large Chinese flag and the other a smaller Hong Kong banner.
In a speech following the flag ceremony, Chief Executive Leung did not explicitly reference the protests that have brought swathes of the city to a standstill for days, instead calling for cooperation with China. "
Hong Kong and the mainland are closely linked in their development. We must work hand in hand to make the Chinese dream come true," he told dignitaries gathered at the city's convention centre. "It is understandable that different people may have different ideas about a desirable reform package, but it is definitely better to have universal suffrage than not," he added.
"We hope that all sectors of the community will work with the government in a peaceful, lawful, rationally and pragmatic manner to... make a big step forward in our constitutional development". Leung then raised a toast, clinking glasses with Zhang Xiaoming, China's top official in Hong Kong, as well as with two men dressed in Chinese military uniforms.
Campaigning pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, known as "Long Hair", was escorted out of the gathering by security for shouting " Hong Kong wants real elections, Leung Chun-ying step down!" just before the Chinese national anthem was played. District councillor Paul Zimmerman who was inside the ceremony raised a yellow umbrella in support of the protests.