Hong Kong protesters bite back at unpopular Beijing-backed leader
Tens of thousands of people have marched in Hong Kong on the first day of 2013 to call for the city’s Beijing-backed leader to step down over allegations he lied about illegal renovations at his mansion, and to press for full democracy for the territory.
Police said 26,000 people joined the march at its peak yesterday, while organisers said 130,000 took part.
They carried banners and chanted slogans urging the leader, Leung Chun-ying, to resign. Some held signs depicting Mr Leung as Pinocchio or with wolf-like fangs, a play on Leung’s nickname, “The Wolf”. One demonstrator was dressed in a Communist Red Guard uniform with a wolf mask on, in a reference to fears over Mr Leung’s close ties to China’s leaders. Many waved Hong Kong’s British colonial-era flag.
In the evening, about 2,500 members of a small radical group briefly blocked several roads after they were stopped by authorities from marching to Mr Leung’s official residence. At one point, protesters pushed and shoved with police.
In a sign of the widening political divisions in the semi-autonomous region 15 years after Britain handed control back to China, thousands of other Hong Kongers joined a rival march on the same day held in support of Mr Leung by pro-government groups. Organisers of that march said 60,000 people took part, while police put the number at 8,000.
The day of protest comes half a year after Mr Leung took office after having been chosen by a 1,193-member committee of mostly pro-Beijing elites. Mr Leung won the job of Hong Kong’s leader – the chief executive – after a scandal over a huge, illegal basement extension brought down his rival.
But illegal structures were later discovered at Mr Leung’s house, prompting legislators to accuse him of covering it up and calling for his impeachment. Demonstrators are using the controversy to push for full democracy for Hong Kong.
Mr Leung’s popularity has plunged since he took office because of the scandal over his house and other controversies.
Protest organiser Jackie Hung said: “C Y Leung does not have the ability and credibility to handle even his own personal scandals. How can he lead Hong Kong in a proper way with political and economic development?”
And Sandy Chung, a clerk, said: “[Leung] is not honest. As chief executive, he cannot convince the public that he is a leader with credibility. I don’t want Hong Kong to be led by a person without credibility.”
Another protester, designer Calvin Tse, said he was upset that he didn’t have a say in choosing the city’s leader.
“We don’t even have a vote, he is elected by a small group of people. We cannot use our voting right to express our view no matter how his performance is.”
Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 and granted Western-style civil liberties not seen on mainland China. Beijing has pledged that Hong Kong’s leader can be directly elected by 2017. Full democracy for the legislature, where some representatives are chosen by business groups, is promised for 2020.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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