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Protesters stage pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on anniversary of UK handover

Thousands of Hong Kong citizens have taken to the streets in support of democracy after lawmakers vetoed a Beijing-backed electoral plan for the city-state. However, numbers were down compared to last year's protests.

Protesters took to the streets of China-controlled Hong Kong in a show of support for democracy. The protesters shouted slogans such as "Hong Kong nation" and "C.Y. Leung step down," in reference to demands that the city's chief executive, Leung Chun-Ying, step down.

The protests mark the 18th anniversary of the United Kingdom handing over Hong Kong to China under a "one country, two systems" agreement.

Student democracy leader Joshua Wong, who was pivotal in last year's student-led pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement," told crowds on Wednesday the time had to come remake the city.

"Remake the future of our city. Build a democratic Hong Kong," the 18-year-old student said.

Wong's statement comes nearly two weeks after Hong Kong lawmakers vetoed a Beijing-backed elections package that would allow citizens to directly vote for the city's leader in 2017 from a pre-approved candidate list.

Hongkong Demo für Unabhängigkeit

Eighteen years ago, the UK handed over Hong Kong to China under a "one country, two systems" agreement

Lower numbers

Johnson Yeung of the Civil Human Rights Front, the march's organizers, said numbers had dwindled due to the veto, according to AFP news agency.

"Everyone anticipates a lower turnout than last year…because the momentum has slowed down after the veto over political reform," said Yeung.

But Yeung said it was more important to switch focus at the moment within the movement.

"Right now people are asking 'what next?' after the veto. We hope the march can set the political agenda and give citizens a chance to discuss how to bring the democratic movement forward," added Yeung.

Moving forward?

Meanwhile, Hong Kong leader Leung said on Wednesday that the city had to move forward after nearly a year of mass rallies.

"Even though political reforms have taken up considerable effort and time, the Hong Kong government will strengthen economic development and improve people's livelihoods," Leung said in a speech.

"As the experience of some European democracies shows, democratic systems and procedures are no panacea for economic and livelihood issues," he said.

ls/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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