By the Associated Press
From right, former Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Director of Chinese central government's Liaison Office in Hong Kong Wang Zhimin attend the flag raising ceremony to mark the 21st anniversary of the Hong Kong handover to China in Hong Kong, Sunday, July 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu/ MANILA BULLETIN)
The protesters carried a coffin symbolizing a death of democracy and chanted slogans against one-party rule in China, demands for universal suffrage in Hong Kong and mainland China and freedom for Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
The ceremony, held beside Victoria Harbour, continued uninterrupted with Beijing-backed Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam in attendance. At a reception later Sunday, she expressed confidence in Hong Kong's future without mentioning any politically sensitive topics.
Hong Kong became part of China in 1997 after more than a century of British rule. China guaranteed a 50-year transition period under which Hong Kong would retain considerable autonomy and keep the rule of law and its own legal and financial system.
However, the ruling Communist Party has made it clear those liberties are limited by its bottom line on sovereignty over the territory — a warning to a generation of young political activists who emerged after failed nonviolent protests in 2014 over Beijing's decision to restrict elections in semiautonomous region.
During last year's 20th handover anniversary, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned in a speech that any activities in Hong Kong seen as threatening China's sovereignty and stability would be "absolutely impermissible."
A larger protest march, an annual event that attracts tens of thousands of people, is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.