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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
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 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.

AppleAndroid