Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying vowed in a handover anniversary reception on Monday to launch a consultation in due course for universal suffrage in the chief executive election in 2017.
The pledge has been requested for a long time by activists, thousands of whom were expected to turn out for the annual democracy march from Victoria Park in Tin Hau to Chater Garden in Central on Monday afternoon.
“With the greatest sincerity and commitment, the SAR government will launch a consultation at an appropriate juncture,” said Leung in his opening speech  at a reception at the convention centre in Wan Chai to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the handover. “We hope that people holding divergent views can set aside their differences and seek consensus as far as possible in an accommodating, pragmatic and peaceful manner.”
Coming off his first year in office, which has had mixed reviews, Leung said the government had implemented in the past year some of the policies he had advocated in his election platform.
Other long-standing livelihood issues – including poverty, an ageing society and the environment through promoting economic growth – will be solved progressively, he added.
However, Lew Mon-hung, a former key supporter of Leung, said although his administration wanted to serve the public, the policies have fallen short of the public’s expectations.
“The direction of his policies was wrong. Baby formula [export] restriction and ‘Hong Kong property for Hong Kong people’ are against the free port core value of Hong Kong. These polices are short-sighted,” said Lew, a former delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Lew expected a huge turnout for the democracy march on Monday as many deep-rooted problems have not been solved after a year Leung took office.
Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong said no matter how many people showed up at the annual march, the government had to listen to the voices of the public.
Earlier, about 2,500 people – principal officials, legislative and executive councillors, officials from the central government’s liaison office, consulates of foreign countries and the public – attended a flag-raising ceremony at 8am at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai. Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa was among the attendees, but Donald Tsang Yam-kuen did not attend.
Protesters briefly scuffled with police officers outside Central Plaza, saying the passage to the protest area was too narrow.
Leung said he wanted to protest while the chief executive gave his reception speech but he was denied entrance to the venue by officials from the Home Affairs Department and police officers.
He was allowed to get into the venue after Leung Chun-ying had left. Long Hair chanted: “Leung Chun-ying step down; implement universal suffrage” and was escorted out of the venue.