Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took to the streets yesterday demanding full democracy. The rally organiser, the Civil Human Rights Front, said 68,000 people took part in the march, the highest turnout in the past three years, and compared with 58,000 protesters last year. Last night the police put the figure at only 20,000 people, while the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Programme estimated that 23,834 joined the march. Prominent marchers leading the protest were Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, veteran Democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming and Next Media chairman and Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who were joined by the old and the young. Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang also took part. Waving banners, placards and self-made flags, marchers chanted slogans such as 'fight for democracy', 'improve livelihood', 'trust the Hong Kong people' and 'return power to the people' as they filed through the streets from Victoria Park to the Central Government Offices. The march started at 2.40pm and ended four hours later. The Civil Human Rights Front's convenor, Jackie Hung Ling-yu, acknowledged that the presence of Cardinal Zen and Mrs Chan had boosted interest in the march. And Ms Hung said the march had shown the people's desire for a say in Hong Kong's political development. 'Their participation has a positive and encouraging effect. But the most important thing is that Hong Kong people need a platform apart from those official celebrations to air their demands, especially on the issue of universal suffrage,' Ms Hung said afterwards. Thanking the participants, she said they had told the government what they really wanted through 'footsteps and sweat'. Quite a few marchers had joined the previous pro-democracy marches. Various demands voiced at the protest included calls for saving RTHK, fighting for the release of jailed journalist Ching Cheong and upholding academic freedom. Political analyst Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the July 1 march had already become a symbol that offered an opportunity for people from all walks of life in the city to express their demands.