Hong Kong protesters hold pro-democracy rally | News | DW | 01.07.2013
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Hong Kong protesters hold pro-democracy rally

Tens of thousands of protesters have marched in Hong Kong through typhoon rains in support of universal suffrage. The march marks the 16th anniversary of the city’s return to mainland China's rule.

Drenched by rains from Tropical Storm Rumbia, protesters marched in Hong Kong Monday to demand that China live up to its promise to allow fully democratic elections in the semi-autonomous territory by 2017.

There has been mounting discontent directed at China's communist government amid concerns that Beijing may somehow try to rig the poll to screen out opposition candidates.

Protesters marched and chanted carrying British colonial Hong Kong flags and pro-democracy banners. The procession, which is organized annually by the Civil Human Rights Front, has come on the heels of a survey published by Hong Kong University, which found that only 33 percent of Hong Kong residents took pride in being a Chinese national - the lowest level since 1998.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, and promised universal suffrage as an "ultimate aim." If the election goes through, Hong Kong will be the first place on Chinese soil to have fully democratic elections.

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, who was appointed last July, has also come under harsh criticism as many say he is guilty of kowtowing to Beijing. He is charged with overseeing the transition to universal suffrage, however many say little or no progress has been made.

"The main goal of the rally is to push through for genuine democracy and to ask for Leung Chun-ying to step down," Jackie Hung of the Civil Human Rights Front told the AFP news agency.

However, Beijing has countered that the ability of Hong Kong residents to protest proves that the freedoms guaranteed under the handover agreement were being honored.

"This year, with so many people going on the streets to protest, shows that under the 'one country two systems', Hong Kong has a lot of freedom and rights," the head of Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming, told reporters.

hc/jr (Reuters, AP)