Thousands of protesters gathered in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park Tuesday for the largest rally the city has seen in a decade to demand full democracy and freedom from Chinese control.
Earlier on Tuesday, protesters had burned a copy of a document released in June by Beijing that suggested complete Chinese authority over Hong Kong. The local government, which has assured protesters of considering their demands, urged protesters to maintain peace, following a referendum conducted on Sunday by Occupy Central, a pro-democracy movement, in which nearly 800,000 people voted for Hong Kong to become a complete democracy.
“We can see that Beijing is eroding the autonomy of Hong Kong, and we want to show we don't fear central government oppression,” Johnson Yeung, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the march, said, according to Reuters.
The annual rally on Tuesday marks the 17th anniversary of the transfer of power when the British handed over control of the city to China on July 1, 1997 in a ceremony at Bauhinia Square.
Last year, more than 400,000 people took to the streets demanding a narrower wealth gap while this year, protesters, who plan to be on the streets until midnight on Tuesday, have set their sights on greater autonomy. Nearly 4,000 police officials are expected to be on site for the protests, South China Morning Post, or SCMP reported.
“For democracy, for autonomy, for your own future -- take to the streets on July 1 and ask the government to directly face the people’s demands,” was the refrain as protesters marched from Victoria Park, Bloomberg reported.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is set to submit an electoral reform proposal to Beijing for it to consider how democracy could be introduced to the city, before he approaches citizens for a second consultation in the latter half of this year, Bloomberg reported.
“At present, there is mild economic growth and people’s employment is not a problem,” Leung said at a flag-raising ceremony in Bauhinia Square, according to SCMP, adding: “Grassroots’ income is [increasing], prices are stable, housing prices and rent increases are under control, the government has a financial surplus. This scenario needs to be defended by everyone, who should avoid doing anything that affects Hong Kong’s stability and damages Hong Kong’s prosperity.”