News / Asia

100,000 March in Hong Kong for Democracy, Leader's Resignation

Watch related video of Hong Kong protestsi
X
July 01, 2013 3:56 PM
Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents have joined a march to demand full democracy on the 16th anniversary of the territory's return to Chinese sovereignty. The demonstrators braved heavy rain from a tropical storm as the annual march on July 1 began at the city's Victoria Park and progressed to the central business district.

Watch related video of Hong Kong protests

At least 100,000 Hong Kong residents have joined an annual march to demand full democracy on the 16th anniversary of the former British territory's return to Chinese sovereignty. 

Many of those who joined Monday's protest called for the city's unelected leader Leung Chun-ying to step down, and for the government to ensure a free election for his chief executive post in 2017.

The demonstrators turned the streets into a sea of umbrellas as they braved a tropical storm's heavy rain for the traditional July 1 march from Hong Kong's Victoria Park to the central business district.

Ms. Ho, a Hong Kong parent who marched with her young son, told VOA the bad weather made the protest more impressive. "Since so many people have come out to brave the (tropical cyclone), the government should really listen to us," she said.

Organizers claimed a turnout of 430,000, far exceeding the police estimate of 66,000. Hong Kong University researchers who monitored the march estimated a turnout of 103,000, an increase of about 20,000 from their figure for last year's protest. The marches began in 2003 with a half-million participants - the largest of the protests to date.

Leung under pressure

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung took office on July 1, 2012 after being selected by a committee dominated by the pro-government establishment and Beijing loyalists. Since then, his popularity has slumped because of scandals involving his Cabinet and conduct before taking office, and public anger about high property prices and a growing influx of mainland Chinese people snapping up the city's resources.

China has agreed to let Hong Kong citizens directly elect their chief executive when Leung's term expires in 2017.

Earlier Monday, Leung repeated a pledge to begin a public consultation about electoral arrangements for 2017 at an "appropriate time." He spoke at a ceremony celebrating the anniversary of Hong Kong's 1997 handover. Later in the day, Leung's government promised to listen "carefully" to the marchers' views.

Election worries

Some of the protesters said they fear Beijing will influence election rules to block pro-democracy candidates from running for chief executive. They accused China of trying to "colonize" Hong Kong, and waved the territory's former British colonial flag in protest.

At the march, a 16-year-old student named Lai said he is concerned that future elections will not be fair. "Universal suffrage means equality. But from the news that I watched before, I saw that some pro-Beijing people were twisting this concept. So I think we must fight for a real and equal universal suffrage," he said.

China has guaranteed Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy and promised to maintain its way of life for at least 50 years. It also has declared that all members of the territory's 70-seat legislature can be directly elected in 2020 at the earliest.

Only 40 lawmakers were chosen directly by voters during the last election in 2012. The other 30 were elected by "functional" constituencies of industry and community representatives who are mostly loyal to the government.

Surveying the marchers

Speaking to VOA by phone, Hong Kong University professor Paul Yip said his research team calculated the turnout estimate for Monday's march by counting marchers at two points along the route. He said they also interviewed marchers at both points and estimated that almost one-third joined the procession in between.

He said he also went into the crowds himself.

"They complained about quite a lot of things, such as the education system and the housing shortage, which is very acute because young people have a lot of difficulty in acquiring a living space," Yip said. "The marchers also complained about the performance of the Hong Kong government."

Yip said Leung should try to address those complaints soon.

"Otherwise I just worry about this frustration. I think it is very contagious and will spread to other groups. And I think the people tend to be getting more and more dissatisfied with the current administration."

Lengthy protest

The march was peaceful and marred only by a brief scuffle between some demonstrators and police.

VOA correspondent Dahai Han followed the procession and said protesters continued to arrive at the end point in the city's Chater Garden park six hours after the first marchers set off.

Han also said several hundred remained in Chater Garden late into the night to start a 50-hour hunger strike in support of their demands. Pro-democracy activists plan to launch a civil disobedience campaign called "Occupy Central" next July to pressure the government to let opposition candidates compete in the 2017 vote.

(Katy Tan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.)

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid