Pro-democracy marchers return to streets

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Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have marched through Hong Kong’s streets in the first major rally since mass protests last year.

Chanting “No fake universal suffrage. I want genuine universal suffrage,” the demonstrators held yellow umbrellas, the symbol of the earlier protests.

The demonstrators oppose the Chinese government’s decision that candidates in the 2017 election for Hong Kong chief executive will be vetted by a largely Beijing-controlled nominating committee.

The final election plan must be approved by a two-thirds majority in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council before submitting to authorities in Beijing. But pro-democracy legislators, who hold 40 per cent of the seats, have said they would veto the screening proposal.

“This is pseudo universal suffrage, we do not have the rights to elect who we want,” said protester Julia Choi.

The march appeared orderly and peaceful throughout the day. The annual event usually is held on January 1 but was delayed for a month this year to coincide with the government’s consultations on electoral reform.

Police raised no objection to the march, though the formal notice the department issued last weekend stressed that organisers should ensure none of the marchers tried to occupy streets as happened during the mass protests.

A large police presence was in force to prevent demonstrators from occupying key areas of Hong Kong.

The number of protesters, put by organisers at 13,000 but by police at half that figure , was far lower than the earlier demonstrations and the protesters did not carry out a repeat of the occupations that shut down parts of the city for more than two months last year.