• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 12:47pm
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

ejmciii
HK people are too well educated and too well informed about how the rest of the world works. They are not buying the propaganda that there is only one way to proceed, which is the Mainland Government's edict. They are not willing to give up their rights and future to princes and princelings. They reject that only members of the Chinese communist party are capable of governing and want to govern themselves within the ambit of the basic law. It is good to see that they are finally waking up to the fact that the promises of a few pieces of silver in exchange for being good slaves is the way to go, despite the propaganda from the mainland government and its appointed minions in HK. Good for you, HK.
Dai Muff
73,000 people took part in the Hong Kong marathon. Who in their right mind believes yesterday's protest was less than a serious multiple of that? I even doubt the Robert Chung estimation. And yes, organisers inflate too.
The police say they had 4,000 officers out there. Who in their right mind believes there was one officer for every 25 protesters?
I think people need to know exactly WHO in the police force came up with their number and why.
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.
321manu
Another example of duelling crowd estimates. 92K or 510K? Who does these estimates? They can't distinguish between 1 person and 5 people?
Regardless, even the cops concede it was 3X as many as last year. The absolute numbers are completely unreliable, but the year-to-year trend might be more reflective of overall sentiment.
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.
chuchu59
It does seem the figures from both sides are made up to suit their own agenda. The figure of 510k was there to eclipse the much publicised figure of 500k in 2003 whereas the Police figure of 92k and which was revised later to 98600 as stated in the telly news is just a shade shy of the 100k figure which would likely have a psychological impact. Personally, I dont believe either of the figures though in any case the turnout seemed to be huge and its obvious that quite a lot of people are discontented on various issues with the most concern on genuine universal suffrage.
Dai Muff
"At Peak Time" is deliberately misleading. It ignores all those who are there before or after that moment. Consider this. There were 73,000 in the Hong Kong marathon. How crowded did the streets look?
ejmciii
HKU, if for no other reason they have no dog in the fight.
req
liars, bent twisted high pitched whining creeps, spineless treacherous monkeys who know nothing of integrity, gratitude or social order. Probably the same broken households like where the longhair monkey came from.
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.

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