I Will Ensure That 2023 Will Be Free And Fair – Buhari

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that as a beneficiary of a free and fair election in the country he would bequeath the same to his successor and the nation in 2023.

The President spoke at a dinner with members of the legal team for the 2019 presidential election petition on Thursday in Abuja.

The President recounted that the turnout of Nigerians during his presidential campaigns to the 36 states of the Federation in 2019 convinced him that his re-election was not a fluke.

‘‘The number of people that turned out in every state across the country was more than anybody can buy or force.

‘‘This gave me so much confidence and the election proved that with the votes I got.

‘‘That is why I insist that elections must be free and fair because I am a clear successor to a free and fair election,’’ he said.

The President told the legal team that he was already looking forward to a peaceful hand over in 2023, stressing that he was morally bound to fulfill that wish.

READ ALSO: Buhari Departs Abuja For UK-Africa Summit

‘‘Morally I want to have a clear conscience. I swore by the Holy Book that I will abide by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

‘‘I will continue to do my best and I hope that by 2023, I can handover quietly to whoever succeeds me and I wish him the best of luck,’’ he said.

The President commended the legal team led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN for the outstanding legal successes recorded in the presidential election petition.

He praised the team for the effective legal strategy that thrived in piloting his election litigation.

‘‘You creditably demonstrated a deep understanding of the law and its practices and I am indeed proud of you all.

‘‘I am confident that by securing a convincing and unanimous legal victory at the Supreme Court you have by so doing ensured that the political mandate of the Nigerian electorate is now firmly secured,’’ he said.

The President added that the legal team’s enormous contributions have affirmed the rule of law and further entrenched democratic governance in Nigeria.

‘‘This legal team is an assemblage of some of the most scholarly legal teams ever assembled in this country.

‘‘I must note that the aforesaid legal successes recorded through your excellence have assisted me in fulfilling this government’s desire for a better Nigeria,’’ he said.

On behalf of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the President told the team to accept his commendations and best wishes for their meritorious service.

In his remarks, the lead counsel, Chief Olanipekun said the legal victory was won based on the facts of the law, stressing that the President never used his position or office to influence the decision of the Courts.

The lead counsel said:

“The courts were allowed to do their job, Mr President and I must commend you for that Sir. Nobody whispered to anyone of us, how we are going to see Judge A or Judge B. That’s the way it should be. Judges must be allowed and be given free hand to do their job.

‘‘Mr President, we are happy to have been called upon and we are happy that we delivered. ’’

On electoral reforms, Olanipekun acknowledged that while the National Assembly was doing something about the Electoral Act, the Act requires some ‘‘rejigging and cleansing.’’

‘‘We are happy to know that the National Assembly is doing something about the Electoral law.

‘‘We are ready to cooperate with them without taking a dime, whether as consultants, whether as legal practitioners, whether as experts. If the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) will co-opt us we are ready to give assistance,’’ he said.

Olanipekun commended the President’s commitment to the rule of law, saying ‘‘it is the surest legacy Mr President can bequeath to our dear nation.’’

Surprise Eminem Album Urges Gun Control, Sparks Anger Over Bomb Lyric

 

 

Guess who’s back?… Rapper Eminem surprised fans Friday by dropping a new album featuring a strong anti-gun violence theme but also stoking the kind of controversy that brought him fame.

On the album, one track called “Darkness” tells the story of a loner going on a shooting spree, while another song, “Unaccommodating,” has triggered outcry and muddied the veteran singer’s call for gun control.

The song references the 2017 deadly bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, Britain, which left 22 people dead.

“But I’m contemplating yelling ‘bombs away’ on the game like I’m outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting,” the 47-year-old artist, born Marshall Mathers, raps on the track.

READ ALSO: Whitney Houston, Biggie Among Rock Hall Of Fame Inductees

The lyric was met with scorn on social media, with some users dubbing it “disgusting” and “trash.”

The new album, called “Music to be Murdered by,” features appearances from the late rapper Juice WRLD, along with Q-Tip, Ed Sheeran, Anderson. Paak and regular collaborator singer Skylar Grey.

Dr. Dre is credited throughout as a producer.

Eminem released his last album “Kamikaze” in 2018 in a similar sudden fashion. That album included several attacks on President Donald Trump.

The rapper also released Friday a video for “Darkness” that featured audio and footage from the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest US gun massacre carried about by an individual in modern history.

It ends urging viewers to register to vote: “Make your voice heard and help change gun laws in America,” closing text reads.

What Pushed Me Into Partisan Politics After 1985 Coup – Buhari

The President Needs To Rejig His Kitchen Cabinet – Oyebode
A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has revealed why he took an interest in politics after ruling the country as a military general.

He explained that the decision to join politics was taken after a clean bill on his integrity by those who detained him after the 1985 military coup.

The President noted that his record as governor of the North East, Minister of Petroleum, and Head of State was thoroughly checked and nothing incriminating was found.

“After I was released and nothing was found on me, I took interest in politics,” he told a group of youths on Friday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

President Buhari added, “This is what pushed me into partisan politics; to serve with integrity. So, I decided to try leadership as a civilian, after taking off the military uniform.”

‘We Learnt Our Lessons’

He made the remarks while receiving youth leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the six geo-political zones.

The President advised the younger generation to keep a broader view of the country as one entity, and continuously de-emphasise ethnic and religious backgrounds in nation-building.

He said, “Whether we like it or not, we will someday handover to Nigerian youths. And you have to brace up for leadership.

“Some interest groups will come up with ethnic, religious issues, but you have to look at the broader picture.”

“We had a civil war that consumed over 2 million Nigerians, and we learned our lessons. Nigeria is one country, and no one should take our firmness for granted,” President Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement by his media adviser, Femi Adesina.

On his second tenure, the President gave the assurance that he would be more firm, focused and relentless in delivering results.

He also promised to ensure the country was secure, stimulate the economy to work for all, and fight corruption.

Ukraine Calls for ‘Evidence’ In Iran Plane Crash Probe

An engine lies on the ground after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. The Boeing 737 had left Tehran’s international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said, adding that 10 ambulances were sent to the crash site.
AFP

 

Ukraine asked international partners to provide any evidence they may have to help investigators probing a Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed in Iran, as US media reported it was mistakenly shot down by a missile.

All 176 people on board died when Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Boeing 737NG went down on Wednesday, shortly after Tehran launched missiles at US forces in Iraq in response to the killing of a top Iranian general in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

“If any country has information that can help conduct a transparent and objective investigation into the tragedy, we are ready to receive it and cooperate in further verification,” the Ukraine presidency said in an English-language statement.

“Ukraine is interested in finding the truth. Therefore, I ask all our international partners: if you have any evidence to assist the investigation, please provide it.”

READ ALSO: UK PM Says Information Suggests Ukraine Jet Hit By Iran Missile

Investigators are pursuing several leads following the crash of the Ukrainian passenger plane in Iran, including a surface-to-air missile strike, an act of terror and engine failure, Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council (RNBO), told AFP earlier Thursday.

The council is tasked with coordinating the probe into the disaster, the first fatal crash involving Ukraine’s biggest carrier UIA.

US President Donald Trump said Thursday he had “suspicions” about the crash as unnamed officials told American media that Iranian air defence systems likely accidentally shot down the airliner.

Newsweek, CBS, and CNN said that satellite, radar, and electronic data indicated the tragic error, which followed a ballistic missile barrage by Iran on two military bases in Iraq where US troops work.

US House Votes To Limit Trump War Powers Against Iran

 

 

In a rebuke to President Donald Trump, the US House voted Thursday to restrict his future military action against Iran, as lawmakers sought to claw back congressional war powers from the White House.

The non-binding resolution was introduced by Democrats after Trump’s order to kill an Iranian commander and retaliatory missile strikes by the Islamic republic dramatically escalated tensions and raised fears of a war between the two foes.

The vote, 224 to 194, was largely along party lines, although three members of Trump’s Republican Party joined Democrats in approving the measure that demands the president not engage in military action against Iran unless authorized by Congress.

US Threatens Sanctions On Venezuelan Lawmakers Over Bribes

President Donald Trump and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guadio

 

The United States will consider sanctions against Venezuelan lawmakers accused of taking bribes to vote against opposition leader Juan Guaido, an official said Wednesday.

Guaido, recognized as Venezuela’s interim president by the United States and more than 50 other nations, was sworn in Tuesday for another term after a chaotic standoff in which troops physically stopped him from entering Congress.

The United States has already imposed wide sanctions aimed at toppling leftist President Nicolas Maduro’s regime and cutting off his government’s key funding source of oil.

Guaido and the United States say Maduro’s government offered bribes to members of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s sole institution controlled by the opposition, in hopes of defeating Guaido.

“There are people who have been engaged in corrupt activity that may have gotten themselves on the radar screen for the first time in the last few days,” a senior US official told reporters in Washington.

He said he was speaking of “people taking money from people that are already under sanctions in the United States.”

“We don’t put sanctions on people for the way they vote,” he said, adding that if individuals “aid or abet or profit from the anti-democratic behavior of the regime, you could be subjected to sanctions.”

Despite a crumbling economy that has sent millions fleeing Venezuela, Maduro remains in power with support from the country’s military as well as Russia, China, and Cuba.

The US is also “looking at additional sanctions” in response to growing Russian support for Maduro, Elliot Abrams, the State Department’s Venezuela envoy, said on Monday.

Re-Elected Venezuela Opposition Leader Guaido Calls For Protests

Venezuela’s National Assembly head Juan Guaido declares himself the country’s “acting president” during a mass opposition rally against leader Nicolas Maduro, on the anniversary of a 1958 uprising that overthrew the military dictatorship in Caracas on January 23, 2019. Federico PARRA / AFP

 

 

Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido called Tuesday for three days of protests against President Nicolas Maduro, hours after he was sworn in for another term as National Assembly speaker following a standoff with the armed forces.

Guaido was barred from entering the assembly by the National Guard for around half an hour in dramatic and chaotic scenes, while a rival claimant to the speaker’s post occupied the chair.

“It’s time to stand up and to stand up with force,” Guaido said later during a press conference.

“We will mobilize for street protests on Thursday and Friday, and on Saturday we will all be in the streets.”

Guaido, self-appointed acting president of Venezuela, leads the opposition to leftist Maduro, who remains in power despite Guaido’s year-long effort to oust the man he calls a “usurper.”

The National Assembly legislature is the only branch of government in the opposition’s hands, and Guaido’s holding of the speaker’s post is important for the continuation of his struggle with Maduro.

Guaido is backed by the United States and more than 50 other countries but, despite Venezuela’s economic collapse, Maduro appears entrenched with crucial support from the armed forces. He is also backed by China, Russia, and Cuba.

“Here we are, showing our face,” Guaido said, taking his seat in the assembly after rival claimant Luis Parra and pro-government lawmakers left.

Blocked by troops

Lawmakers sang the national anthem but electricity to the chamber was cut off, leaving deputies to use flashlights on their mobile phones.

Guaido then raised his right hand and took the oath of office for another term as leader of the assembly.

Earlier, dozens of National Guard troops wearing helmets and carrying riot shields blocked Guaido from entering the building.

“These are not barracks!” Guaido shouted.

Some of his allies and members of the press were also blocked from getting inside.

The opposition said on Twitter that four lawmakers were injured by “regime minions.”

Parra, an opposition legislator accused of corruption, had declared himself speaker on Sunday after the armed forces had prevented Guaido from entering the building.

Guaido had declared Sunday that he was re-elected to his post after holding a legislative session alongside loyal deputies at the offices of a pro-opposition newspaper.

Crisis-hit Venezuela has been in political turmoil since last January when Guaido used his position as speaker to declare himself acting president in a direct challenge to the authority of Maduro.

The United States warned on Tuesday it could ramp up sanctions against Venezuela, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Guaido on his re-election.

“The Maduro regime’s campaign of arrests, intimidation, and bribery could not derail Venezuelan democracy, nor could its use of military forces to physically bar the National Assembly from accessing the parliament building,” said Pompeo.

Speaking Tuesday on state broadcaster VTV, Maduro called Pompeo a “failed clown” for supporting Guaido, whose swearing-in as speaker was “a show.”

“The United States assumes it has the right to name the world’s legislatures with (their) threats,” he said.

And Maduro’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted that the US must “now assume that its strategy against Venezuela failed. They have not shown any skills as puppeteers and they lost their main puppet.”

Parra was kicked out of his opposition party last month after an online news site accused him of corruption linked to the over-pricing of food imported for the Maduro government.

He remains a deputy and Maduro recognized Parra’s election in a television address on Sunday. But even Maduro’s left-wing allies Argentina and Uruguay have denounced the move.

Assembly sidelined

Before Sunday’s vote, Guaido said the Maduro government had bribed some opposition deputies to vote against him.

The opposition holds 112 of the 167 seats in the assembly.

As well as two claimants to the presidency and the position of assembly speaker, Venezuela has two legislatures.

The National Assembly has been effectively sidelined since 2017, when the Supreme Court, made up of Maduro loyalists, declared it in contempt. The court has since annulled its every decision.

Maduro then controversially set up a Constituent Assembly — also made up exclusively of loyalists — with power to legislate in its place.

Trump Says ‘All Is Well’ After Iranian Missiles Target US Troops

 

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that initial casualty assessments indicated “all is well” after Iranian missiles targeted two bases housing US troops in Iraq.

He tweeted that “assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”

READ ALSO: Iran Fires Over A Dozen Missiles On Iraq Base Housing US Troops

Trump did not go on evening television to address the nation — something of an informal presidential tradition in times of foreign policy crisis — in the immediate hours following Iran’s missile strikes.

However, he said to expect a statement early Wednesday in Washington.

“I will be making a statement tomorrow morning,” he said.

AFP

Iraqi Protesters Denounce Twin ‘Occupiers’ US And Iran

 

 

Iraqi protesters flooded the streets on Sunday to denounce both Iran and the US as “occupiers”, angry that fears of war between the rivals were derailing their anti-government movement.

For three months, youth-dominated rallies in the capital and Shiite-majority south have condemned Iraq’s ruling class as corrupt, inept and beholden to Iran.

Following a US strike on Baghdad Friday that killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders, Iraqi lawmakers urged the government Sunday to oust thousands of US troops deployed across the country.

For protesters who were hitting the streets, Iran was also a target for blame.

“No to Iran, no to America!” chanted hundreds of young Iraqis as they marched through the southern protest hotspot of Diwaniyah.

Young children present carried posters in the shape of Iraq and waved their country’s tri-colour.

“We’re taking a stance against the two occupiers: Iran and the US,” one demonstrator told AFP.

Nearby, a teenage girl held a handwritten signing reading: “Peace be on the land created to live in peace, but which has yet to see a single peaceful day.”

Iraqi helicopters circled above, surveying the scene.

Relations between Tehran and Washington have been deteriorating since the US abandoned a landmark nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and reimposed crippling economic sanctions.

But tensions boiled over during the last week, culminating in a US drone strike outside Baghdad Airport that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and several Iraqi paramilitary leaders.

‘Don’t ignore our demands’

Some protesters initially rejoiced, having blamed Soleimani for propping up the government they have been trying to bring down since early October.

But joy swifty turned to worry, as protesters realised pounding war drums would drown out their calls for peaceful reform of Iraq’s government.

In a bold move, young protesters in the southern city of Nasiriyah blocked a mourning procession for Soleimani and top Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis from reaching their protest camp.

Outraged pro-Iran mourners fired on the protesters, wounding three, medical sources told AFP.

“We refuse a proxy war on Iraqi territory and the creation of crisis after crisis,” said student Raad Ismail.

“We’re warning them: don’t ignore our demands, whatever the excuse,” he said.

The demonstrators are calling for early parliamentary voting based on a new electoral law. They hope this would bring transparent and independent lawmakers to parliament.

They have also demanded Iran — their large eastern neighbour which holds sway among Iraqi politicians and military figures — reduce its interventions in Iraq.

Tehran has especially strong ties to the Hashed al-Shaabi, a military network of mostly-Shiite factions which has been incorporated into the state.

The US has accused one vehemently anti-American Hashed faction, Kataeb Hezbollah, of attacking US diplomats and troops in Iraq.

No sovereignty, no state?

On Saturday, Kataeb Hezbollah told Iraqi security forces to “get away” from US troops, sparking fears they would fire rockets at bases shared by soldiers from both countries.

Just moments before, explosions rocked the enclave in the Iraqi capital where the US embassy is located and an airbase north of the capital housing American troops.

In the shrine city of Karbala, student Ahmad Jawad denounced Soleimani’s killing and the ensuing violence.

“We refuse that Iraq becomes a battlefield for the US and Iran, because the victims of this conflict will be Iraqis,” he told AFP.

Another student, Ali Hussein, was worried about the precarious situation.

Iraq’s premier Adel Abdel Mahdi resigned last month over the protests but political factions have not agreed on a replacement, and are now focused on the aftermath of the US strike.

“The Americans violated Iraq’s sovereignty by hitting the Hashed bases and carrying out another strike by the Baghdad airport,” said Hussein.

For demonstrators whose main rallying cry had been “We want a country,” Hussein said the foreign military operations were jarring.

“It’s proof that there’s no state in Iraq,” he said.

US Army Will ‘Pay Price’ For Killing Soleimani – Hezbollah Chief

 

 

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday said the US army will “pay the price” for killing top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi commander in a drone strike.

“The American army killed them and it will pay the price,” the Iran-backed head of the Lebanese Shiite group warned in a televised speech following Friday’s strike in the Iraqi capital.

“The only just punishment is (to target) American military presence in the region: US military bases, US warships, each and every officer and soldier in the region,” Nasrallah said.

He added however that American civilians such as “businessmen, engineers, journalists and doctors” should be spared.

“When the coffins of American soldiers and officers… start to return to the United States, (US President Donald) Trump and his administration will realise they have lost the region,” he said.

Soleimani and top Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in a US drone strike Friday near Baghdad’s international airport, sparking fury in Iran and Iraq.

Nasrallah’s speech was beamed to black-clad supporters who gathered in southern Beirut, waving Hezbollah’s yellow flag or holding up portraits of Soleimani and Muhandis.

Nasrallah also called on Iraq to free itself of the American “occupation”.

“Our demand, our hope from our brothers in the Iraqi parliament is… to adopt a law that demands American forces withdraw from Iraq,” he said.

Iraq’s parliament urged the government on Sunday to end the presence of US-led coalition forces in the country, outraged by the American strike.

Some 5,200 US soldiers are stationed across Iraqi bases to support local troops preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State jihadist group.

They are deployed as part of the broader international coalition, invited by the Iraqi government in 2014 to help fight IS.

In his speech, Nasrallah said he had last seen Soleimani when the Iranian general visited him on New Year’s Day on Wednesday, without specifying where the meeting took place.

He said the general had flown out of the Damascus airport on Thursday night to Baghdad, where he was welcomed by Muhandis.

Earlier on Sunday, Hezbollah news outlet Al-Manar published undated photos of Nasrallah and Soleimani, including one in which the Iranian commander kisses Nasrallah’s forehead.

In a rare interview aired on Iranian state television in October, Soleimani said he had been in Lebanon during the 34-day 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war to oversee the fighting.

Hezbollah is the only side not to have disarmed after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

The United States has designated it a “terrorist” group and several of its figures are under sanctions, but the party is also a key player in Lebanese politics.

London Advises Brits To Avoid Travel to Iraq, Iran

Britain Flag

 

The British government on Saturday advised UK nationals to avoid travelling to Iraq and Iran in face of heightened tensions in the Middle East following the US killing of a top Iranian commander in Baghdad.

“Following the death of Qasem Soleimani and heightened tensions in the region… We now advise British nationals against all travel to Iraq (and) we now advise against all but essential travel to Iran,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement.

“The first job of any government is to keep British people safe,” the statement said.

“Given heightened tensions in the region, (we) now advise people not to travel to Iraq, with the exception of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and to consider carefully whether it’s essential to travel to Iran. We will keep this under review.”

On Friday, the US military killed Soleimani in an airstrike outside Baghdad international airport that shocked the Islamic republic and sparked fears of a new war in the Middle East.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed the death of the commander of its Quds Force foreign operations arm, and Tehran’s clerical leadership promised “severe vengeance… in the right place and time”.

In its statement, the British Foreign Office urged UK nationals in the region to “remain vigilant and monitor the media carefully.”

On Friday, foreign minister Dominic Raab had said that while London had “always recognised the aggressive threat” posed by Soleimani and his Quds Force, “following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

Police, Protesters Clash During Huge Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Rally

 

 

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy marchers thronged the streets of Hong Kong for a massive rally on New Year’s Day, looking to carry the momentum of their movement into 2020 as police and hardcore demonstrators faced off again.

Hong Kong has been battered by nearly seven months of often-violent unrest, with frequent clashes between the police and hardcore protesters as the city battles its biggest political crisis in decades.

Despite a peaceful start on Wednesday, violence erupted near the march as it snaked through the Wan Chai district on the financial hub’s main island. Riot police used pepper spray and tear gas, while hardcore protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails.

The Civil Human Rights Front, the umbrella group which organised the march, had permission for the march from city authorities, but they were ordered to end it soon after the clashes began.

“The police have… asked us to dismiss the rally,” the organisers told marchers using megaphones. “Please calmly and slowly leave the scene right now.”

In now-familiar scenes, riot police were seen taking positions at several locations, including the Wan Chai subway station.

Black-clad, masked protesters also gathered to set up makeshift barricades, while some businesses were vandalised in the afternoon.

The unrest in Hong Kong was sparked by a proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China, bringing millions out on to the streets in June last year. It has since morphed into a larger revolt against what many fear is Beijing’s tightening control.

Despite the continued unrest, China and the Hong Kong administration have refused to cede to the protesters’ demands, which include fully free elections in the city, an inquiry into alleged police misconduct, and amnesty for the nearly 6,500 people arrested during the movement — nearly a third of them under the age of 20.

“It is sad that our demands from 2019 need to be carried forward to 2020,” the CHRF’s Jimmy Sham said at the start of the rally.

Activists have accused the police of brutality and rights violations, while city authorities — and the central government in Beijing — have accused pro-democracy protesters of rioting.

China has also alleged that the unrest has been fanned by foreign powers, and has bristled at criticism from rights groups and governments of the way the protests have been handled so far.

‘Hopeless situation’

Hong Kong saw in the new year with an evening of peaceful protests that descended into tear gas-choked clashes between hardcore demonstrators and the police overnight.

Thousands of people linked arms to form human chains that stretched for miles along busy shopping streets and neighbourhoods on New Year’s Eve.

Later, protesters set fire to barricades in some parts of the city as the police launched 2020’s first volleys of tear gas and used water cannon to disperse the crowds.

The protest movement has become quieter since the city’s pro-democracy camp scored a landslide victory in a municipal-level vote in November — seen as a referendum on the Beijing-backed government — and violent clashes at some of the city’s university campuses.

But protesters have vowed to continue their fight for greater freedoms.

“Hong Kong people have been pushed to a hopeless situation. That’s why today we have to come out,” a masked protester said in a speech at the rally on Wednesday.

The unrest that began in June last year is the biggest crisis the former British colony has faced since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Under the terms of that handover, Hong Kong enjoys unique freedoms unseen on the mainland, but fears have increased in recent years that they are being chipped away as Beijing exerts more control over the territory.