News24

Huge demo as Hong Kong marks 15 years

2012-07-01 17:56

Hong Kong - Hong Kong's biggest protest for nearly a decade packed the former British colony's streets on Sunday in a defiant reception for its new leader and a show of popular anger after 15 years of Chinese rule.

The vast rally came after Leung Chun-ying, a millionaire property consultant seen as being close to China's communist authorities, was sworn in as chief executive in front of Chinese President Hu Jintao, whose speech was interrupted.

Hu's visit and Leung's inauguration have become focal points for growing discontent towards Beijing, which has surged to a new post-handover high amid soaring housing costs, limited democracy and perceived meddling by China.

"Hong Kong has become much worse off," Eric Lai of the Civil Human Rights Front told the marchers.

"Our rights are under serious threat."

Organisers put the crowd at 400 000, their largest claimed turnout for eight years and almost twice their number last year, but police said only 63 000 attended - although that was also their largest figure for eight years.

The marches have become an annual fixture since 2003, when 500, 00 people showed their fury over a security bill and economic downturn, a key factor in the then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa stepping down the following year.

The crowd on Sunday ranged from engineers and civil servants to maids and students and represented groups from the Falun Gong spiritual movement to trade unions, as well as ordinary citizens young and old.