Hong Kong protesters march to Legislative Council in protest at 'fake' democracy
But turnout at launch of coalition's campaign against government's electoral reform proposal falls well short of the original 50,000 estimate
Thousands of protesters brandishing symbolic yellow umbrellas marched from Causeway Bay to the Legislative Council building in Admiralty yesterday in opposition to the government's electoral reform package, days before lawmakers vote on it.
"I am confident that the lawmakers will vote down the proposal. I am here to show them my support," said 76-year-old protester Chow Fat-leung. "I took part in [last year's] Occupy movement for more than 50 days. Now I am coming out to protest for my children and my grandchildren."
The rally was organised by a coalition of 14 pro-democratic groups calling itself the Citizens Against Pseudo-Universal Suffrage Campaign.
After chanting slogans such as "say no to fake universal suffrage", the protesters left Victoria Park for an assembly at Tamar.
The organisers said 3,500 people took part, well short of their original estimate of 50,000. The police said 3,140 joined the rally at its peak.
"It may have to do with the recent reverse in public opinion [as reflected in opinion polls]. People now feel more confident that the proposal will be voted down," said coalition representative Sam Yip Kam-lung.
Watch: Pro-democracy protesters march against Hong Kong government’s electoral reform package
The debate in Legco starts on Wednesday and all 27 pan-democratic lawmakers say they will reject the package, denying the government the two-thirds majority needed for the reform to pass.
Yesterday's rally was the first of a series of actions by the coalition. There will be nightly assemblies outside Legco until the vote. But organisers have no plans to repeat the blockades of the 79-day Occupy movement last year.
Protesters were confident the proposal would be rejected and were not worried about reports of a mystery man trying to bribe League of Social Democrats lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung into voting for the proposal.
Along the route, protesters traded insults with about two dozen supporters of the proposals for the 2017 chief executive election. They branded the pro-democracy marchers "running dogs of Western imperialists" while displaying placards saying "genuine" universal suffrage was a false notion.
Police kept them apart.
"It is possible that some powerful people are doing what they can to get the pan-democrats to vote for it," said protester Stephen Au, 55. "It may not be just money. But I believe it will be voted down."
Meanwhile, University of Hong Kong pollster Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu said that in a poll his team conducted last Monday and Tuesday, 50 per cent of 1,004 residents believed the package should be approved, while 33 per cent wanted it to be voted down.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said these findings were in sharp contrast to a poll by three universities in which 43 per cent of 1,115 residents wanted the package voted down, while 41.7 per cent supported it.
Leung said: "[That's why] I said different polls asked different questions and collected different answers … so the people should make comparisons and understand [different polls] from different perspectives."