[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 4 December 2005, 16:28 GMT
Thousands march for HK democracy
March in Hong Kong
The turnout was bigger than had been predicted
Tens of thousands of people have taken part in a march in Hong Kong to demand a fully democratic political system.

Trade unions, activists and civic groups joined ordinary citizens, some carrying banners denouncing China.

They snaked round streets lined with sky-scrapers towards government offices chanting "now or never" and "do you want a clown or a chief executive?".

Campaigners say they want the Chinese autonomous territory's next leader to be elected by universal suffrage.

In response to mass protests in 2003 and 2004, Beijing made some concessions, namely offering to enlarge the 800-strong election committee charged with selecting a new leader.

However, opposition leaders say the proposals do not go far enough.

Clear message

The BBC's Chris Hogg in Hong Kong said the march appeared to be much larger than many had predicted, with many ordinary citizens and their families taking part.

Organisers, the Civil Rights Front, said 250,000 people took part in the march while police said the figure was nearer to 63,000.

"I just feel there are moments in one's life when you have to stand up and be counted," said Anson Chan, Hong Kong's former deputy leader and a first-time marcher.

Hong Kong is completely ready for democracy
Beau, Hong Kong (US citizen)

Palu Cheung, 42, who brought his four-year-old daughter, said: "I want my daughter to know that I do this for her and for myself," he told Associated Press. "I think we have the quality to select our own government."

Our correspondent says the rally organisers hope a large turnout will send a clear message to Beijing that they want direct leadership elections and a fully-elected parliament.

"This is make-or-break time," Martin Lee, the veteran leader of the pro-democracy movement told Agence France Presse.

"The more people that come on the march, the more the government will have to do something about this," he said.

Following the protest, Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang said he shared the same goal as the protesters.

"I've heard their voice. I have felt their feelings and I share their pursuit," he told a press conference.

"I am 60 years of age. I certainly want to see universal suffrage taking place in Hong Kong in my time."

Timetable for change

The chief executive is currently chosen by a committee made up of about 800 Hong Kong residents selected by Beijing.

But the island's constitutional document, or Basic Law, contains provisions for ultimately electing the leader by universal suffrage.

However, China has refused to implement such reforms to allow the people of Hong Kong to elect their next leader in two years time.

Pro-democracy campaigners say if that remains the case, they should be given a timetable and told when they will be allowed to vote for who rules them.

One lawmaker, Lee Cheuk Yan, said people "are very much disappointed" over the long wait.

In demonstrations in 2003 and 2004, 500,000 people have taken to the streets to protest against the policies of Hong Kong's government.

The rallies shook the administration and its political masters in Beijing. Some say they cost Hong Kong's former leader, Tung Chee-hwa, his job.

See the scale of the protest in Hong Kong

Thousands in HK protest march
01 Jul 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong's leader Tung resigns
10 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong looks to life after Tung
10 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Tung Chee-hwa
10 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Donald Tsang
10 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific