We share a national holiday! Sunday was Canada Day, the official birthday bash for our country. There were parades and fireworks, speeches and sporting events. Canadian artists performed and politicians presided at all kinds of festivities marking our 145th year as a country independent of Britain.
We lived in Hong Kong for many years and they also have a national holiday on July 1. Their July 1 holiday recognizes the hand over of Hong Kong to China in 1997 and the end of 156 years of British control. The celebrations this year were special because they marked 15 years of independence from Britain.
China’s president Hu Jintao was in Hong Kong to lend an official presence to the 2012 National Day celebrations and swear in businessman Leung Chun-ying as the new leader of the territory. Leung, a police officer’s son, replaces career bureaucrat Donald Tsang, who took office in 2005 and cannot serve another term. There was also a spectacular fireworks display sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce that lasted 23 minutes. Huge crowds turned out to view the fireworks at Victoria Harbor.
Hong Kong is not like the rest of China. Designated a ‘special area’ the people there have certain political freedoms other places in China do not. One is the right to peaceful protest. The National Day celebrations on July 1 this year included a protest rally. According to CNN nearly 400,000 people came out on July 1 to protest the fact that Hong Kong citizens have not yet been given the right to democratically elect their politicians. They are also concerned about the worsening pollution, soaring real estate prices and the ever-widening gap between rich and poor.
Here in Canada July 1 was also marked by protests. Many communities had Stop Harper demonstrations. Stephen Harper is Canada’s prime minister. People are upset about Harper’s Bill C-58 because it will eliminate many important environmental protection agencies and protocols, change old age security and amend fair wages legislation. In Osborne Village in Winnipeg where I celebrated Canada Day they held a funeral for the country. There was also a Twitter protest on July 1 against Harper called Denounce Harper.
Last year I spent July 1 in Hong Kong. This year I spent it in Canada. The national celebrations in both countries are much the same– a celebration of freedom from British rule and citizens using their freedom of speech to express their opinions.