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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs