• Sat
  • Aug 30, 2014
  • Updated: 8:12am
July 1 march
NewsHong Kong
POLITICS

Annual march biggest in recent years, with the focus democracy in 2017

Full democracy and no screening of chief executive candidates are top of agenda, with students staging an Occupy Central rehearsal through night

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2014, 2:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2014, 9:32am

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets to demand "genuine" democracy in 2017 and express their anger at Beijing's declaration of its authority over Hong Kong in the biggest July 1 protest in recent years.

The last marchers arrived at Chater Garden, Central, after 11pm - about eight hours after the scheduled start of the demonstration in Victoria Park.

Some students sat in the street in Chater Road and vowed to stay all night in a rehearsal for the planned Occupy Central protest.

Last night, organiser the Civil Human Rights Front put the turnout at 510,000, while police said 92,000 started the march in Victoria Park. In both cases, the figure was the highest since 2005.

The University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme put the turnout at between 154,000 and 172,000.

The march was another key test of support for the democracy movement, after 800,000 people voted in a 10-day unofficial referendum on models for the 2017 chief executive election.

Passions were also stirred by lawmakers' controversial vote last week to grant funding for preliminary work on contentious plans for new towns in the northeastern New Territories.

Civil Human Rights Front convenor Johnson Yeung Ching-yin said: "The massive turnout shows Hong Kong people want genuine universal suffrage. The government must respect public opinion."

Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun agreed, saying: "[Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying will find it difficult to govern now hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets."

The police figure of 92,000 for those who joined the march at Victoria Park was almost three times the total given for last year.

Yet police said 99,500 people took part in the June 4 vigil for the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown last month.

Organisers said 430,000 marched last year. They claimed 530,000 people turned out in 2004 and 500,000 in 2003.

A Post poll found demands for a democratic election for chief executive in 2017, with no candidates "screened out" on political grounds, was the most important cause for marchers, with 65 per cent making it one of their top two issues.

More than 60 per cent cited last month's white paper, in which Beijing asserted its "comprehensive jurisdiction" over the city.

However, Beijing's top man in Hong Kong, liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming , said neither the march or the referendum would affect the central government's determination to implement universal suffrage "in accordance with the law".

Beijing-loyalist groups said about 500,000 people took part in 150 events marking the 17th anniversary of the handover. They included a free concert at Kai Tak and a carnival outside government headquarters in Admiralty.

Despite temperatures hitting 32 degrees Celsius and thunderstorm warnings for most of the evening, protesters began queuing more than an hour before the scheduled 3pm start time.

"My elder daughter didn't want to come as she said it was too hot today, but I told her we had to come to protect our city," said advertising worker Tom Shum, 40, who was joined by his wife and two daughters.

Marchers took more than three hours to leave the park, as Causeway Bay became jammed and police refused organisers' pleas to open all six lanes of Hennessy Road to marchers.

Police accused the organisers of deliberately slowing down the procession.

About 4,000 police were on duty. While the march passed off with few incidents, officers kept a wary eye on hundreds of students later as they carried on their protest in Central.

The Federation of Students and the student-led group Scholarism had announced plans for overnight sit-ins in Chater Road and outside the chief executive's office in Admiralty.

The Hong Kong government said it respected residents' rights to free expression, but said allowing the public to nominate candidates for chief executive in 2017, as 91 per cent of those polled by the Post wanted, was "unlikely" due to "legal, political and operational" issues.

Gary Cheung, Tony Cheung, Joyce Ng, Jeffie Lam, Fanny W.Y. Fung

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This article is now closed to comments

LunarRepublic
At the moment, Hong Kong is between what they call 'a rock and a hard place.' It will either become another city under an oppressive government that can't distinguish between silencing complaints and solving actual problems, or it can force itself into an imperfect system that often doesn't work the way people expect it to (as we've seen in the recent Arab Spring uprising, and numerous times in history).
But at the very least, the latter option will offer Hong Kong some sort of chance in the future, and there's absolutely no way I'm willing to vouch for self-proclaimed communist China over the fate of this city.
req
(Holds up middle finger)
How many fingers can you see?
....
....
....
....
500,000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
zx
Your comments are consistently inane.
shouken
Quite frankly, I love to see the situation get worse and Hong Kong implode. I don't even wish the HKers to really learn anything from it so that they can reap a full share of what they sow. As for any real and tangible benefits to the average HKer, I think nothing short of a true communist revolution will deliever any of that. So, HKers, go in force and fight real hard! Nothing can be more exciting and entertaining than that!
keithkklau@gmail.com
maybe the pan dem and the radical wins the popularity, I don't see any ccp will compromise to public pressure as this will set a bad example for his governance in China. meanwhile the pan dem cannot afford to work against their supporter to support any moderate proposal. so what to happen will be a more chaotic Hong Kong and as tough line in China dominates, more intervention are inevitable so ending up into a vicious cycle that lead hk to nowhere.
ninacheung
In the title "with the focus democracy in 2017"? What does that mean? SCMP...
ianhuayensee
Looking at the numbers is missing the point. There is a stand off, not a fight, between the CCP rules and the HK people. I don't think there is any question of HK people not accepting and respecting Chinese sovereignty over HK, it's fait accompli. Notwithstanding Britain's dirty hands in sowing (problematic) seeds which would germinate after 1997, the Communists think that there is only one way to do things and that is their way. They force things down HK people's throats yet there are some outwardly patriotic HK people singing their praises and condemning other Hong Kongers' legitimate aspiration. I suppose it happens to all societies. The Communists should learn to be a bit more inclusive, although this looks like a tall order. HK is still a goose that lays the golden egg, although it may not be the only one. Then again, what is wrong with China having more than one goose?
captam
It doesn't really matter whether the number is five times the police estimate or three times the HKU's estimate.
The main factor is that the organizers are clearly lying and exaggerating before they even get their dream of being elected and then ruling over you and me.
This is a taste of what democracy has in store (it's the same the world over); liars and cheats making false statements and unfulfilled promises in order for them to gain power and then benefit personally at our expense.
321manu
You seem to accept the police estimate or the HKU estimate as the gospel truth. Why is that? It is certainly a joke that a single event has a head count with a range of over 500%, but the joke is on all of them.
And assuming the logic is not already immensely self-explanatory (but considering your proclivities, they may not be), the cops have plenty of reason to low ball the number, just as the organizers may have reason to inflate it. But since objectivity doesn't seem to be your strong suit, I thought I'd help you out.
Dai Muff
Calm down. You'll give yourself a stroke. With democracy you get to vote bad people OUT. Good luck voting a Chinese leader (or party) out.

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