Tens of thousands of people protested in Hong Kong on Sunday against plans by pro-democracy activists to shut down the semi-autonomous Chinese city's financial district with a mass sit-in unless China allows electoral reforms.
The Alliance for Peace and Democracy, which organized Sunday's rally in sweltering heat, claims that most people in the city of seven million do not support the pro-democracy campaign run by the Occupy Central group.
The Alliance says it has so far collected almost 1.5 million signatures - including that of leader Leung Chun-ying - from people opposed to the Occupy campaign on the grounds that it would tarnish Hong Kong's reputation and harm business.
Occupy is planning to block roads in the financial district later this year if authorities reject the public's right to nominate candidates for the chief executive post. Beijing has promised to allow voters to pick Hong Kong's leader starting in 2017, but only under the condition that candidates are first vetted by a loyalist committee.
Under current regulations, the leader is chosen solely by the pro-Beijing committee.
The city has recently seen a series of protests by pro-Beijing and pro-democracy groups.
A pro-democracy march in July was also joined by more than 100,000 people, with organizers putting the total number of participants at more than half a million. Police detained a number of those in charge of the rally.
That march was preceded by an unofficial referendum showing that the majority of the 800,000 who took part supported reform that would allow public nomination of candidates for the leadership.
Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997 under an agreement guaranteeing freedoms and civil liberties, including the right to protest.
tj/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters)