Organizers say 510,000 people rallied for full democracy on the streets of Hong Kong Island today.
Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, with the promise of eventual universal suffrage. Until now, its chief executives — the top leadership post in Hong Kong — have been chosen by a largely pro-Beijing committee. A group of 689 people voted for Hong Kong’s current leader, CY Leung.
A 10 day unofficial referendum organized by activists ended Sunday. With more than 780,000 voting — over a fifth of Hong Kong voters — the referendum’s success surprised even the organizers and galvanized their cause.
China’s communist leaders have said in the past that it will ‘allow’ Hong Kong’s residents to vote for the chief executive beginning in 2017, but in a “white paper” issued last month, Chinese leaders made clear that Beijing would retain control and allow only “Chinese patriots” to be nominated for the election.
Demonstrators assembled in Victoria Park at 3pm and headed peacefully down Yee Wo Street to Hennessy Road and on to Statue Square in Central. “This year people came out braving the rain and wind and many citizens joined along the way,” Johnson Yeung, a rally organizer, told a cheering crowd in the city’s Central business district late Tuesday.
Today is the 16th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover from Britain back to China. People are demanding democratic reform and protesting against the current leadership.
Time Lapse Video of people flowing out of Victoria Park as the march begins.
Initial reports stated that 196 people had been arrested overnight up till 6:30am. After 10am on Wednesday police announced that 511 people had been arrested on Chater Road. They were accused of illegal assembly and obstructing police officers in the due execution of duty.
Protesters had stated repeatedly that they fully intended to leave at 8:00am. Despite sitting down and linking arms police began removing people around 5am. One by one, police working in teams of four carried people away for several hours.
100’s of people began to show in support in the early hours of the morning, but were cordoned off by police from getting near the protesters resisting at the sit-in.
To the cheers of supporters at the stroke of 8am the remaining sit-in protesters un-linked arms, stood up and dispersed, some to be escorted away by police.
Below are some spectacular images of the days events.
We will be updating this posting as events unfold.