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September 23, 2017

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Demonstrations in Hong Kong as China moves to assert control

HONG KONG -- Protesters turned Hong Kong's constitutional document into toilet paper Wednesday in an angry demonstration against Beijing's publication of a controversial white paper reasserting China's control over the city.

China's State Council — Beijing's cabinet — on Tuesday issued its first ever policy document stipulating how Hong Kong should be governed, in what was widely interpreted as a warning to the city not to overstep the boundaries of its autonomy.

It comes at a time of increasing political tension in the city as pro-democracy groups fear Beijing will backtrack on promised reforms.

About 40 demonstrators rallied outside Beijing's representative office in the west of Hong Kong, burning a large-scale reprint of the white paper and brandishing rolls of toilet paper printed with the city's Basic Law.

"It is an explicit interference in Hong Kong affairs," pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan told reporters at a separate protest outside the government's Liaison Office, as he urged Beijing to withdraw the document.

Hong Kong's unique status among Chinese cities is guaranteed by the "One Country, Two Systems" policy that allows it democratic freedoms and civil rights not permitted on the mainland.

The Basic Law is the city's constitution, drawn up based on the terms of an agreement between Britain and China before the handover in 1997.

As part of democratic reforms promised by Beijing, the city will elect its leader for the first time in 2017.

But pro-democracy groups fear China's government will only allow its allies to be elected.

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