Hong Kong protests on 15th anniversary of British handover to China
Around 400,000 protesters marched for hours on Sunday shortly after the city’s new chief executive came into office during a ceremony marked the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty.
Protesters voiced their frustration towards a plethora of issues, including ongoing grievances about the lack of universal suffrage, soaring house prices, widening poverty gap, as well as suspicious death of Tiananmen political dissident Li Wang-yang.
The main focus of the protest was the lack of trust to the appointment of the third chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who was chosen as chief executive in March by winning 689 votes from 1,200 voters within a small-circle of business elites sharing Beijing’s wishes.
The annual democratic rally was the biggest since 2003 in terms of number of protesters, yet police put the official figure at a much lower 63,000 people.
“My government and I will seriously and humbly listen to the people’s demands, no matter through what means or how many people were there,” the 57-year-old Hong Kong’s new leader vowed.
“If Leung wants to give Hong Kong people to trust him, he should show himself to be fighting for democracy and not just kowtowing to Beijing,” leading pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan told AFP.
The former British colony does not get to choose its leader by universal suffrage yet, but Beijing has promised a direct democratic election for the chief executive in 2017, and for the legislature by 2020. As no roadmap has been laid out, Hong Kong protesters feared that the central government will exert increasing influence on the new government to discourage voices of dissent.
Chinese President Hu Jin-tao said the central government will remain committed to the principles “one country, two systems” and a high degree of autonomy during his three-day visit to Hong Kong.
“While we recognise Hong Kong’s achievements 15 years after the handover, we must also be conscious of the deep disagreements and problems in Hong Kong society.” Hu said in the inaugural ceremony of the new government.
Chinese state-run media CCTV and Xinhua news agency did not cover the democratic protest in their extensive coverage of Hong Kong’s handover anniversary.