Massive Hong Kong democracy march against Beijing rule

Organisers of the march estimate that 510,000 people took part in the rally

Protesters congregate at Victoria Park for a democracy rally in Hong Kong yesterday. Photographer: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg

Protesters congregate at Victoria Park for a democracy rally in Hong Kong yesterday. Photographer: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg

 
Hong Kong

Organisers of the march estimate that 510,000 people took part in the democracy rally, which is the biggest since half a million people marched in 2003 against a planned anti-subversion law, and which contrasts markedly with the police figure of 92,000.

As rain fell on the former crown colony, some of the demonstrators carried banners saying “Say No to Communist China”, “Chinese colonists, get out!” and holding aloft pictures of the territory’s chief executive Leung Chun- ying with the slogan “Can you trust this man?”

Students planned an overnight sit-in at Chater Road in the business district Central, and police deployed 4,000 officers to keep order.

“We have gathered enough public opinion on public nomination. Now it’s time to act,” Alex Chow Yong-kang, secretary general of the Federation of Students and Scholarism, told the South China Morning Post.

Civil disobedience

The demonstration was a powerful display of opposition to China’s efforts to control who will be Hong Kong’s chief executive after 2017, when the post is supposed to be chosen by residents of China’s richest city.

Voting on a broad level in Hong Kong would be the first example of democracy in China, and is a threat to single-party rule by the Communist Party, which has run China since the 1949 revolution.

The march came just days after the activist group Occupy Central – or Occupy Central With Love and Peace, to give its full title – organised an unofficial referendum on free elections in 2017, in which 800,000 people voted.

When Britain gave Hong Kong back to China, the terms included a “two systems, one country” package and a mini- constitution known as the “basic law”. This enshrines democratic rights, which irks many in the Communist Party leadership, as reflected in a white paper issued by Beijing last month attempting to rein in democratic sentiment in the territory.

The Occupy movement has said that it will strike at Hong Kong’s business heart by staging sit-ins and blocking streets in Central if the government does not deliver a blueprint for the 2017 chief executive election that ensures the electorate will have a genuine vote, and not just reflect business interests as currently stands.