China's President Xi Jinping said Thursday that China will not allow itself to be bullied and anyone who tries will face "broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron Great Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people."
He was addressing a mass gathering in Tiananmen Square to mark the centenary of the ruling Communist Party.
Wearing a grey buttoned-up suit of the type worn by Mao Zedong, Xi spoke from the balcony of Tiananmen Gate, emphasizing the party's role in bringing China to global prominence and saying it would never be divided from the people.
"We Chinese are a people who uphold justice and are not intimidated by the threat of power and force. The Chinese people are a people with a strong sense of pride and self confidence. We have never bullied, oppressed or enslaved the people of any other country, not in the past, during the present or in the future," he said.
"At the same time, the Chinese people will absolutely not allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or enslave us. Anyone who attempts to do so will end up with broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron Great Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people."
Deepening rivalry with America
China is enmeshed in a deepening rivalry with the United States for global power status and has clashed with India along their disputed border.
China also claims unpopulated islands held by Japan and almost the entire South China Sea, and it threatens to invade Taiwan, with which the U.S. has boosted relations and military sales.
Xi said the party would retain absolute control over its military wing, the People's Liberation Army.
The military now has the world's second-largest budget after the U.S. and has been adding aircraft carriers and sophisticated new aircraft, showcased in a flyover at the start of the ceremony featuring a squadron of China's J-20 stealth fighters.
Thousands of military personnel and other citizens attended the lavish ceremony in Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing.
Air force planes flew overhead in formation to create the number 100 in the air.
Thursday's events are the climax of weeks of ceremonies and displays praising the role of the party in bringing vast improvements in the quality of life at home, and restoring China's economic, political and military influence abroad.
While the progress dates mainly from economic reforms enacted by Deng Xiaoping four decades ago, the celebrations spotlight the role of Xi, who has established himself as China's most powerful leader since Mao.
Hong Kong bans handover protest
Marking the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese control, a top city official defended the national security law imposed by Beijing to crush pro-democracy rallies and said Thursday it would be used further in the coming year to ensure stability.
Police sealed off Victoria Park — until recently the site of annual pro-democracy rallies marking the 1997 handover — and put up flags warning people that they could be prosecuted if they enter or remain in the enclosed area. They said there were online calls encouraging people to take part in an unauthorized protest.
The security law was implemented one year ago as authorities cracked down on dissent in Hong Kong after the territory was rocked by massive anti-government protests in 2019.
Critics say Beijing has reneged on a promise to keep the special privileges for Hong Kong for 50 years — the autonomy of its courts and legal system, civil liberties that include a free press, freedom of speech and the leeway to take to the streets to protest.