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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Thousands in HK protest march
Marchers in Hong Kong 1/07/04
The atmosphere was peaceful and calm
Thousands of protesters have marched in Hong Kong to call for more democracy and to criticise their government.

The march comes exactly a year after 500,000 people took to the streets to protest against proposed new security laws, forcing a government climb-down.

The main focus this year is anger at China's decision that Hong Kong cannot directly elect its next leader.

Police said 200,000 people took part this time, a turnout that is still likely to cause unease in Beijing.

One protester, Ida Chan, told the BBC: "I want to express my dissatisfaction with the government. We feel we have no right to express our opinion, they don't accept the people's opinion."

Most of those taking part were wearing white, the slogans on their T-shirts reflecting different concerns.

Activists push past police as they carry a mock coffin with the Chinese characters: 'A high degree of autonomy has already  been buried' 1/07/04

"Give power to the people" was the most controversial, says the BBC's Chris Hogg. He says some in Beijing have interpreted that as a call for independence.

This is denied by the organisers, who made the theme of the march a call for direct elections to choose Hong Kong's next leader.

Beijing has taken a hardline and deeply controversial political strategy, ruling out full democracy in Hong Kong in the near future and labelling its critics as traitors.

Many of the territory's citizens feel Beijing has reneged on its promise to give Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

China uneasy

Beijing had called on Hong Kong's people to use the day to celebrate the anniversary of its handover to Chinese rule in 1997.

In an early morning speech marking the anniversary, Hong Kong's leader Tung Chee-hwa made no reference to the demonstration, simply appealing for people to be peaceful and united.

Our correspondent says last year's protest was partly fuelled by frustration at the state of the economy - which was devastated by the spread of the deadly Sars virus and record unemployment.

This year, a stronger economy and lower unemployment - courtesy of help from Beijing - may have taken some of the heat out of the protests.

There were attempts to scupper the march entirely, according to its organisers, the Civil Human Rights Front.

Computers hackers used one of the Front's addresses to send out emails headed: "Urgent: July 1 rally will be postponed to July 4 due to bad weather," the group said.


Your comments:

I participated in both demonstrations last year and this year. I don't think the heat has been taken out of the debate by the improved economy and lower unemployment rate as people in Hong Kong are fighting for more autonomy and democracy. They are fighting for their in-born right. In both demonstrations, if you listen to what the demonstrators shouted most loudly, it's "Mr Tung - resign!"
YS Lau, Hong Kong

They are scared by the monopoly of China's government
Fang, Yanyu, China
I am from mainland China. I support my government of China. Maybe sometimes democracy is the most important thing for some people, but at least for me, I think to live in our life is enough. I don't think they have more democracy when they belong to UK. They are scared by the monopoly of China's government. But they haven't thought about what we have done for them. The veto on the leader of Hong Kong is not so important.
Fang, Yanyu, China

I'd like to know if the People of Hong Kong have the same right during the governance of Britain as they have now? I never think that Hong Kong has been more democratic than it is today. If they have the right to march today, that is to say they have their freedom of expression.
Ting, France

I participated last year and I did so again today. It was touching as last year's march. The question is why the "People's" Republic of China do not grant what the people of Hong Kong deserve - the right to choose their own representatives.
Carlos Vivanco, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong

Hong Kong should stand up to declare independence
Mark Hanin, New Haven, CT
Instead of continuing its precarious bowing to Beijing, Hong Kong should stand up to declare independence. If Beijing is directly confronted by a plebiscite, any Chinese retribution will be minimal. Plus, southern Chinese provinces heavily rely on Hong Kong's economic power. It is about time.
Mark Hanin, New Haven, CT

I am out here visiting a friend who lives in Hong Kong, and I can say that I have never seen a more peaceful, well organised and impressive display of people power. Not only were the people sweltering in oppressive heat and humidity, they were also surrounded by literally hundreds, if not thousands of police officers. I found the march to be very powerful. Whether or not it makes a difference remains to be seen. Does the international community have the power or the inclination to stand up to mainland China for the rights of the people of Hong Kong?
Robbie McLaren, Edinburgh, Scotland

It has been a great day. The march have taught me the value of democracy and liberty. I am proud of being one of the participants. It is a meaningful and touching activity. The determination of the Hong Kong people have once again been shown. I hope that our demands will be fulfilled. I wish our little steps will change the history.
Jeffrey , Hong Kong, China

I was glad to see all walks of life in the procession
KB Leung, Hong Kong, China
I'm so touched by my fellow citizens. We all showed the good discipline and our pursuit for a full democracy in Hong Kong. I was glad to see all walks of life, elderly and youngster, in the procession. I'm sure our dream will come true soon!
KB Leung, Hong Kong, China




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"Its people are angry, and impatient for change"



SEE ALSO:
In Pictures: Hong Kong march
01 Jul 04  |  In Pictures
Where next for HK's democracy?
27 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
China veto angers HK democrats
06 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Tung Chee-hwa: Beijing's favoured son
07 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Tung meets HK democrats
18 Jun 04  |  Asia-Pacific
HK radio host 'quit over threats'
27 May 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Q&A: China's new leadership
05 Mar 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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