HONG KONG (AP) — Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers were expected to take to the streets in protest Monday, demanding their widely disliked Beijing-backed leader resign and pressing for promised democratic reforms so they can choose their own top representative.
The march is an annual event that underscores the growing gulf between Hong Kong and the mainland 16 years after the city ceased to be a British colony and came back under Beijing's control.
Those marching plan to express their unhappiness about leader Leung Chun-ying, who has been beset by one controversy after another since taking office a year ago. Leung was not elected, instead picked by a committee of mostly pro-Beijing and pro-business elites.
March organizer Civil Human Rights Front was expecting 100,000 people to take part in the protest, said group member Andrew Shum.
"Hong Kong people have been waiting too long for universal suffrage and for building a democratic city," Shum said. "Many people feel very angry."
Beijing has pledged to let Hong Kongers pick their leader, known as the chief executive, no earlier than 2017 and the entire legislature by 2020. But residents of the city, now a special administrative region of China, are frustrated that there have been few signs of progress on drawing up outline and some fear that it may never happen.
Last year, organizers said more than 400,000 took part in the protest march, while police estimated there were 63,000 at the procession's peak
Soon after taking office, Leung, a self-made millionaire who trained as a property surveyor, was hit by a scandal involving illegal additions to his mansion. Months later, he outraged parents by trying to introduce Chinese patriotism classes that many saw as brainwashing.
More recently, Barry Cheung, a member of Leung's cabinet, was forced to step down from all his public posts after police launched an investigation into his upstart commodity exchange.
Hong Kongers have also grown increasingly upset over stubbornly high property prices, which Leung had pledged to combat with more affordable housing, and a growing influx of mainland Chinese visitors blamed for clearing out stocks of baby formula.
"I think it is clear that he has not done anything. He gave a lot of promise to Hong Kong people one year ago," said Shum. "However after one year we can't see he has done anything."