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Hong Kong marches for democracy

Nearly 20,000 Hong Kong residents took to the streets to demand full democracy for the former British colony.

india Updated: Jul 01, 2006 17:25 IST

Nearly 20,000 Hong Kong residents took to the streets on Saturday to demand full democracy for the former British colony, on the ninth anniversary of its handover to China.

Carrying banners that read "Justice, Equality, Democracy, Hope" the protesters flooded out of the gates of Victoria Park in the city centre, bound for downtown government offices some three kilometres away.

Police estimated that the early turnout was about 19,000, while organisers declined to comment on the figure but had advised police to prepare for 50,000 people. Last year's march drew up to 20,000.

Amid fading calls for democracy nine years after the 1997 handover, activists hope the appearance of retired deputy leader secretary Anson Chan will re-ignite their once- formidable campaign for universal suffrage.

Chan said that her highly publicised decision to join the protest was not an act of defiance against the government she once served.

"Today I come to take part in the march in support of democracy but this doesn't mean we are trying to challenge the government," Chan said, flanked by pro-democracy legislators.

Wearing a broad-brimmed hat to brave the scorching weather, she dismissed claims that the booming economy had reduced Hong Kongers' hunger for democracy.

In response to Saturday's march, the pro-Beijing camp held a celebration earlier in the day that included performances by Hong Kong-based Chinese troops as well as performances by cultural groups and local pop stars.