HONG KONG, July 1 (Xinhua) -- China's Hong Kong celebrated Wednesday the 23rd anniversary of its return to the motherland, after a law on safeguarding national security in Hong Kong came into force on Tuesday night.

China's national flag and the flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) were hoisted and the national anthem was played at a ceremony at the Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong Island at about 8:00 a.m. local time in celebration of the anniversary.

Helicopters flew over Victoria Harbor, displaying the national and regional flags, and a fireboat sprayed a water-column salute.

At a reception following the flag-raising ceremony, Chief Executive of the HKSAR Carrie Lam stressed the significance of the return anniversary and said the new law will help restore stability in the region.

The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was passed unanimously at the 20th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress, China's top legislature, and took effect at 11:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

The legislation came as Hong Kong had been gripped by prolonged social disturbances since June of last year. Intensified violent incidents and riots trampled order and the rule of law, threatened people's safety, and endangered national security.

Lam called the enactment of the law a turning point to take Hong Kong out of the current impasse and to restore stability and order from the chaos.
The HKSAR government will do its utmost and remain steadfast in its duties to fulfill the primary responsibility of implementing the law in Hong Kong, Lam said, stressing the establishment of a committee on safeguarding national security in the HKSAR.

A series of celebrations were under way on Wednesday for the anniversary, including parades of floats and fishing vessels and residents singing the national anthem in chorus.

At the opening ceremony of celebrating activities, Luo Huining, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, highlighted the successful practice of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong over the past 23 years.

The social unrest arising from the now-withdrawn ordinance amendments concerning fugitive transfers since last year has exposed the tremendous risks Hong Kong is facing in safeguarding national security and posed a grave challenge to "one country, two systems," Luo said.

"With the elapse of time, we will get a good view that the promulgation of the law marks a significant turning point for Hong Kong to move from turmoil to stability, and a major milestone for the practice of 'one country, two systems' in Hong Kong," he said.