HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of people, some waving Chinese flags, marched through Hong Kong yesterday to protest against a pro-democracy campaign to blockade the business district unless Beijing grants acceptable electoral reforms.
The rally in searing summer heat came around seven weeks after rival pro-democracy protesters staged a mass march demanding a greater say over how Hong Kong’s next leader is chosen.
Public discontent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city is at its highest for years, with concern at perceived interference by Beijing and growing divisions over how the next chief executive should be chosen in 2017 under planned political reforms.
Pro-democracy campaigners from the Occupy Central group have pledged to mobilise thousands of protesters to block roads in the Central financial district later this year if authorities reject the public’s right to nominate candidates for the post.
But the movement has been strongly criticised by Beijing and city officials as illegal, radical and potentially violent.
Paul Yip, a statistician at Hong Kong University, said an estimated 57,000 attended yesterday’s rally. Police said 111,800 people left the starting point in Victoria Park while the organisers put the figure even higher at 193,000.
Last month’s pro-democracy march, in comparison, drew between 122,000 and 172,000 people according to independent estimates, while organisers claimed more than half a million had poured onto the streets. Many of the protesters who filled the park yesterday wore red to show their allegiance to Beijing.