Thousands of activists on Sunday staged a silent march through Hong Kong, holding signs and banners declaring their outrage at the Chinese government’s recent anti-democracy rulings and calling for continued boycotts and civil disobedience.
The march, organized in part by the pro-democracy collective Occupy Central—a reference to the region’s business district—was part of a movement against Hong Kong legislators that launched after a September 1 ruling which effectively destroyed the region’s chance to hold a democratic election for its next leader, due in 2017. Leaders reneged on a promise to offer universal suffrage to Hong Kong voters after the territory was handed over to China from the United Kingdom in 1997, instead proposing an election policy that would allow two or three candidates to enter after they had gained endorsements from at least half of the members of a nominating committee stacked with government loyalists.
“Beijing has failed to fulfill its promise that Hong Kong can have democracy,” Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting told the South China Morning Post on Sunday. “What can Hong Kong people do? We need to press ahead with a civil disobedience campaign.”
Protesters held signs that read, “The government has broken its promise!” and “Beijing has breached our trust! Universal suffrage is hopeless!”
Sunday’s march was the latest in a series of actions that pitted pro-democracy activists against pro-establishment forces. Organizers estimated 4,000 protesters were in attendance, while police claimed 1,860. The march remained peaceful throughout the day as activists braced against sweltering summer heat to walk through the region’s active business district, staying silent as they moved to demonstrate that the rally was “solemn,” as another Occupy co-founder, Chan Kin-man, explained to SCMP.
“The proposed electoral plan is a step backward away from democracy,” protester Earnest Choy told Forbes. “We worry that the elected chief executive, under the guise of having ‘power delegated by the people,’ would push for schemes that Hong Kong locals do not actually welcome, such as a civic education reform that teaches kids to be loyal to the central government.”
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