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Thousands March for Democracy in Hong Kong
Larger than expected turn out provides boost for universal suffrage
David Kootnikoff (kaspian)     Print Article 
Published 2005-12-05 16:30 (KST)   
A mass demonstration in support of democracy filled the streets of Hong Kong Sunday, calling for the Beijing appointed Chief Executive Donald Tsang to set a timetable for the implementation of universal suffrage.

Organizers of the event put the numbers at 250,000, a larger than expected turn out. It was half the number that demonstrated in the 2003 display of "people power" that marked a dramatic downturn in the fortunes of then Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, who resigned earlier this year.

Independent analyst Robert Chung of the Public Opinion Programme put the number at 81,000 to 98,000, while the Civil Human Rights Front estimated 250,000. However, the police have offered various crowd estimates ranging from a low of 40,000 to the current 63,000 at the time of this writing, causing some to question their impartiality.

Speaking last week from Britain, Hong Kong Legislative member and democratic supporter Ronnie Tong stated that 50,000 demonstrators would be enough to send a strong message to Beijing.

"This is make-or-break time," said founding chairman of the Democratic Party and legislative member Martin Lee, during the march.

Highly respected and popular former chief secretary Anson Chan chose to involve herself for the first time in a pro-democracy rally. At a press conference before the march she said, "We are not rabble-rousers ... I just feel there are moments in one's life when you have to stand up and be counted."

Tsang's government is being accused of doing the bidding of Beijing authorities rather than standing for the aspirations of Hong Kong people. A constitutional reform package set for a vote on Dec. 21 contains no timetable for universal suffrage and lacks substantial democratic reforms according to legislator James To.

During the march he proposed delaying the vote for "one or two months" until more consultation could be solicited from the community.

Late in the evening protesters gathered outside government headquarters on Hong Kong Island demanding to speak to Chief Executive Tsang.

He finally emerged only to speak to the press. He expressed sympathy for the marchers' aspirations saying, "I am 60 years of age. I certainly want to see universal suffrage taking place in Hong Kong in my time," but dismissed calls for a timetable.

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©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David Kootnikoff

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