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No force can shake China's foundation today: Xi Jinping
CHINESE President Xi Jinping presided over a grand display of China's strength in Beijing - declaring that no force could stop the country's rise - even as concerns grew over the condition of the first protester reportedly shot in Hong Kong after almost four months of unrest.
Speaking at the start of a grand parade marking 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China, Mr Xi called for stability in Hong Kong, unity among Chinese ethnic groups, and the "complete unification" of the country.
He delivered the remarks at the site where late Communist Party patriarch Mao Zedong proclaimed the nation's founding on Oct 1, 1949.
"Today, a socialist China is standing in the east of the world and there is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation," Mr Xi told an audience under smoggy skies in the centre of the capital. "No force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation from forging ahead."
His rallying cry came before an hours-long pageant showcasing China's industrial and scientific achievements, including sophisticated weaponry such as DF-17 ballistic missiles believed capable of circumventing US defence systems.
The tightly choreographed proceedings sought to reinforce the strength of a party facing multiple threats, from US President Donald Trump's trade war and slowing economic growth to violent unrest in one of Asia's top financial hubs.
Even before the parade ended, pro-democracy protesters had begun gathering in several neighbourhoods around Hong Kong, with crowds at one point growing into the tens of thousands.
Some demonstrators lit fires, built barricades, scrawled anti-China graffiti on buildings and clashed with police who fired tear gas and swung clubs to disperse them.
A protester was hit in the chest by a live round fired by police in the Tsuen Wan area in the city's northwest, the South China Morning Post reported, citing an unnamed source.
Videos appearing to show a bleeding protester treated by emergency personnel circulated on social media. A police spokeswoman said they were still trying to verify the report.
Demonstrations have rocked the city since early June, triggered by proposed legislation allowing extraditions to China before morphing into a broader pushback against Beijing's grip.
In his most extensive comments on Hong Kong since unrest began, Mr Xi said the "one country, two systems" principle under which the city has been governed since its return from British rule in 1997 must be upheld.
But the unrest underscored growing uneasiness with Mr Xi's style of rule, with US lawmakers threatening sanctions over the government's handling of Hong Kong and China's mass detention of ethnic Uighurs.
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council - controlled by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party - issued a statement condemning China's "one-party dictatorship".
"China's call for unified struggle, a great rejuvenation and unification is just an excuse for military expansion," the agency said. "It severely threatens regional peace and global democracy and civilisation."
In Hong Kong, the government cancelled a fireworks show and toned down celebrations to avoid disruption by protesters.
Numerous malls and more than 20 of the city's 91 train stations, which have become a focal point of demonstrations, were shut on Tuesday to keep people from gathering there.
While Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam was celebrating the festivities in Beijing, her deputy Matthew Cheung said China continued to be "fully supportive" of the city's government.
Ms Lam, who had tried to push the bill through before protests erupted, assumed responsibility for the "entire unrest" as she held her first community dialogue event last week.
Although she has withdrawn the bill that sparked the protests, she continues to refuse demonstrators' other demands, including an independent commission of inquiry into the unrest, amnesty for charged protesters and restarting the process of allowing direct elections for her successors. BLOOMBERG