Pro-Democracy Protesters Flood Hong Kong

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents marked the 17th anniversary of the handover of the city from Britain to China today by marching in protest of the Chinese government.

Hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters, mostly young people, held banners demanding "real democracy" and chanted slogans against Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader, Leung Chun-ying, as they marched from Victoria Park to the city's central business district.

Tuesday's protest coincides with the annual July 1 pro-democracy rally marking the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule.  It is taking place just a couple days after one-fifth of Hong Kong's voters took part in an informal vote on democratic reform, and follows a white paper on political reform in Hong Kong issued by China's central government. 

Beijing has promised to allow Hong Kongers to vote for their elected officials in 2017. But it has angered many by insisting that it will only allow candidates that are approved beforehand.

The 14,500 word white paper, released earlier this year by China's State Council Information Office, asserts that Hong Kong does not have full autonomy. It says many "wrong views" are held in Hong Kong on the "one country, two systems" concept.   

Some protesters set fire to replicas of the report.

Derek Chan Tak-cheung, an activist, took part in the demonstrations. 

He said after the Chinese State Council issued the white paper, we made a coffin and banner reading RIP (rest in peace) Hong Kong to use as a metaphor in our protests. Derek said we also used that to remember the deaths in the Tiananmen crackdown and appeal for the release of all political prisoners. 

Hong Kong residents march through the streets of the former British colony carrying umbrellas during a protest to push for greater democracy, Hong Kong on July 1, 2014. /AP Hong Kong residents march through the streets of the former British colony carrying umbrellas during a protest to push for greater democracy, Hong Kong on July 1, 2014. /AP

Last weekend democracy activists organized an informal poll on democracy that asked three questions on the election of the city's chief executive. Currently, Beijing chooses the nominees for the chief executive. Activists are pushing for universal suffrage in Hong Kong by 2017. Eight hundred thousand people in Hong Kong took part in the poll, which the Chinese government called illegal and invalid. 

Chinese state media warned Hong Kong residents Tuesday against protesting for democracy. The state-run China Daily newspaper wrote, "Without the mainland, [Hong Kong] would be left with only half of its trade, one-fourth of its foreign investment and visitors, not to mention only one-tenth of its water and food supply."

VOA News / Jul. 02, 2014 08:12 KST