HONG KONG - More than 1,000 protesters joined a pro-democracy march on Sunday (Aug 21) to protest over the disqualification of candidates in next month's Legislative Council (LegCo) election.
Accusing Beijing of politically screening the candidates, the protesters demanded for more autonomy for the city and respect for the basic rights of Hong Kongers to contest in the Sept 4 polls.
"I don't support any of the six candidates who were banned. But I am very angry over the decision to ban them. In a democratic city like Hong Kong, everyone should have the right to contest in an election. I am against political screening," said university student Arry Tsui, 20.
Earlier this month, six people including high-profile activists Edward Leung Tin Kei and Andy Chan Ho Tin were barred from the polls by returning officers citing their pro-independence stance as the reason for their decisions.
Both Mr Chan and Mr Leung have cried foul over the ban and vowed to seek a judicial review of the returning officers' power to disqualify them from the election
Mr Chan, who did not turn up at the protest, said he was not invited. But even if he had received an invite from the organiser, he said would not have joined the march as he does not find the it meaningful and would not yield any reaction from Beijing.
The electoral returning officers had said the pro-independence stance of the candidates had violated the basic law and rejected their candidacies.
Many believed the ban on the candidates was an order from Beijing to block separatists from gaining a foothold in Hong Kong's legislature.
Civil Human Rights Front, which organised the protest, estimated that 1,300 protesters participated in the march.
The motive of the protest, which was widely supported by candidates from the pan-democratic parties, has been snubbed by various localist and pro-Beijing candidates, accusing the pan-democrats of using the protest as a campaign tool to gain more votes.
First-time candidate Kenny Wong Chun Kit, from localist party Youngspiration, questioned the timing and effectiveness of the protest when the high-profile banned candidates were not invited, nor did they turn up for it.
With just two weeks to polling day, Mr Wong, 29, believes the pan-democratic party candidates would seize the opportunity "to win some votes" with their participation in the two-hour march from Causeway Bay district to the chief executive's office in Admiralty.
Disagreeing, Mr Andrew Wan Siu-kin, 47, of The Democratic Party, said: "Candidates would be taking a risk in violating the campaign rules if they try to promote their election campaign during the protest. Also those who show up would be supporters of pan-democrats anyway, so I don't see how we can win more votes in showing our discontent.
"We protest because we feel that we are losing our autonomy and our basic law has been threatened by Beijing's interference."