Hong Kongers want CY Leung out

They blame him for eroding city's autonomy; thousands plan to join protest march today

Hong Kongers are blaming one man for the erosion of the city's autonomy in recent years. And tens of thousands of them are expected to join a march today to call for that man, Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, to step down.

The city's highest ranking official, better known as CY Leung, is being blamed for allowing China to encroach upon the One Country Two systems framework under which it has a high-level of autonomy.

With the recent revelations by bookseller Lam Wing Kee of his eight-month detention in the mainland and forced TV confession, Hong Kongers would also be raising concerns over their personal safety and perceived unfair treatment by the mainland authorities today.

A yearly affair to mark the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, today's march will be led by Mr Lam, 61, one of five booksellers who went missing last year and resurfaced in the mainland this year; Mr Ching Cheong, 67, a former senior journalist with The Straits Times who was imprisoned for over 1,000 days in the mainland on charges of spying for Taiwan; and Mr Lau Shan Ching, 63, an activist imprisoned in the mainland for 10 years for "counter-revolutionary offences".

All three men had experienced unfair treatment by the mainland authorities, something that the organisers seek to highlight, Mr Ching told The Straits Times.

He added: "Under CY Leung's watch, we have seen our political space being shrunk year after year. I think it is time to say aloud to Beijing we don't want CY Leung to have another five years."

There is speculation that Mr Leung will be fielded again at next year's CE election by a Beijing-friendly committee.

Organised by activist group Civil Human Rights Front, today's march will be the first time that residents will be expressing unhappiness over various issues, all blamed on one man, analysts say. It carries the theme "At War with 689! Unite and defend our Hong Kong!", in mocking reference to the number of votes Mr Leung received from the 1,200-member panel in 2012.

Today's turnout might also give a hint as to whether Mr Leung is really "a big issue" in September's Legislative Council elections, said Professor Lau Siu Kai, Hong Kong-based vice-chairman of Beijing's top think-tank on Hong Kong affairs.

"There's a lot of discontent with CY Leung, even though we don't know the real story about (bookseller) Lee Bo or Lam Wing Kee. But some people in Hong Kong believe that some Chinese officials had come here to impose Chinese Laws. There is a lot of suspicion," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2016, with the headline 'Hong Kongers want CY Leung out'. Print Edition | Subscribe