BEIJING — Thousands of people prepared to attend Hong Kong’s annual march for democracy Tuesday in what organizers hoped would be the highest turnout for a decade.
The march reflects growing dissatisfaction with the city’s leaders and the influence of Beijing.
Organizers expect over half a million people to join the march from Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to the Central business district. Some campaign groups vowed to hold overnight “sit-ins.”
The July 1st rally commemorates the day in 1997 when the capitalist enclave and former British colony was returned to Communist Chinese rule under a “one country, two systems” arrangement that preserves liberties still restricted on the mainland, such as holding public protests.
The day of protest began with members of the League of Social Democrats burning a picture of the city’s top leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, and saying Beijing had lied about Hong Kong keeping a high degree of autonomy from the mainland, according to the South China Morning Post. At a morning ceremony, Leung told Hong Kong to treasure its economic success, and warned that instability would affect prosperity, said Xinhua, China’s state news agency.
This year’s event follows an informal referendum by Occupy Central — a pro-democracy group — which drew almost 800,000 people, or one fifth of the city’s registered voters. In a push for universal suffrage, the civil referendum asked voters to choose one of three options for choosing the Chief Executive in the 2017 elections.
While all three options involve public nomination of candidates, Beijing insists that only a committee of 1,200 pro-Beijing loyalists can make the nominations. Chinese officials in Hong Kong called the vote illegal and invalid Monday, reported Xinhua.
In the run up to the Occupy referendum, China’s State Council angered many in Hong Kong by issuing a policy “white paper” that emphasized Beijing’s authority and “comprehensive jurisdiction” over the territory. Poll organizers said Chinese authorities tried to disrupt the vote by ordering multiple cyberattacks by mainland-based hackers.
Benny Tai, a law professor at Hong Kong University — and one of the referendum’s organizers — said those attacks showed Beijing is determined to suppress democratic moves anywhere in China, but the referendum also highlights Hong Kong’s potentially influential role… see more