HONG KONG • Thousands of demonstrators marched in Hong Kong yesterday to demand full democracy, fundamental rights, and even independence from China, in the face of what many see as a marked clampdown by the Chinese Communist Party on local freedoms.
Over the past year, countries such as the United States and Britain have expressed concerns over a number of incidents they say have undermined confidence in Hong Kong's freedoms and autonomy under Chinese rule.
These include the jailing of activists, a ban on a pro-independence political party, the de facto expulsion of a Financial Times journalist as well as moves barring democracy activists from contesting local elections.
Police said some 3,200 people attended yesterday's march at its peak, while organisers gave a higher figure of 5,500 people, who called for the re-starting of stalled democratic reforms and to fight "political repression" from Beijing.
"Looking back at the year that passed, it was a very bad year... The rule of law in Hong Kong is falling backwards,"said Mr Jimmy Sham, one of the organisers.
The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula, with the promise of a high degree of autonomy from Beijing and universal suffrage.
While the authorities have clamped down hard on the city's fringe, pro-independence movement, that did not deter some 100 activists from joining the march, holding up banners and chanting for the city to separate from China.
Some protesters also carried "wanted" posters of Hong Kong's top legal official Theresa Cheng, criticising a decision to drop a corruption investigation into Hong Kong's former pro-Beijing leader Leung Chun-ying.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE