Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam will today mark the start of her third year in office with a crisis, as her administration remains in a deadlock with protesters over a contentious extradition Bill that has been suspended indefinitely.
Tensions in the city have soared over the past three weeks, following huge rallies denouncing the proposed extradition law that would allow Hong Kong to send fugitives to mainland China for trials.
Both the government and anti-extradition protesters have been gearing up for a face-off today - which marks 22 years since Hong Kong was handed back to mainland China by the British.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung appealed for calm in his blog yesterday, ahead of planned protests on the handover anniversary.
He said the government will learn from experience and adopt "a most humble and open-minded attitude to listen to the views of the different sectors".
"In the next three years, the government will improve the lives of residents, develop the economy and strengthen communication with different segments of society, with particular focus on the younger generation," he wrote.
The government will also strive to listen to the views and needs of the youth, and incorporate their suggestions in policies wherever possible, Mr Cheung added.
ONE AFTER ANOTHER
June 9 was all about the Bill, June 16 was all about the Bill plus police brutality, so what's going to happen on July 1? It's basically a snowball for her.
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR SEANON WONG, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, on the problems faced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam. He noted that by not reacting to protesters' demands, Mrs Lam is "basically trying to wait the issue out".
Meanwhile, tens of thousands gathered at Tamar Park in Admiralty yesterday to show their support for the police, holding placards saying: "Ah sir, I've got your back."
Among those at the rally were deputy director of Beijing's Basic Law Committee Maria Tam, former police commissioner Tang King-Shing and Hong Kong actors Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Kenny Bee.
The developments come on the back of planned protests to disrupt the annual morning flag-raising ceremony at the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai this morning, as well as the annual Civil Human Rights Front march from Victoria Park in the afternoon.
In anticipation, the authorities have placed the square on lockdown and closed the nearby Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The Civil Human Rights Front had earlier said that it believes anger over the government's failure to fully scrap the Bill - along with recent allegations of abuse of power by the police - would likely lead to another huge turnout.
This would follow the million-strong crowd at the June 9 rally and a record two million on June 16.
The march will begin in Victoria Park at 3pm, while a pro-Beijing group is expected to hold celebrations marking the handover at the park's football pitches.
Tensions reached a flashpoint on June 12, when the Bill was to be read a second time, as tens of thousands of protesters clad in black surrounded the government headquarters in Admiralty. They paralysed traffic in the area and cut off access to the Legislative Council.
The demonstration turned violent when protesters and the police clashed. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Dozens of protesters were arrested and many others injured.
Ms Bonnie Leung, a spokesman for the Front, said the government had been "arrogant" and had not responded to any of the demands raised by the protesters.
Mrs Lam apologised twice after the protests, but has refused to resign and instead pleaded for another chance to serve the people.
Assistant professor Seanon Wong of the Chinese University of Hong Kong said that by not reacting to protesters' demands, Mrs Lam is "basically trying to wait the issue out and hoping there'll be fewer people on Monday".
"June 9 was all about the Bill, June 16 was all about the Bill plus police brutality, so what's going to happen on July 1? It's (the problem is) basically a snowball for her," he said.