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Protesters want democracy sooner

world Updated: Jan 14, 2008 00:05 IST
James Pomfret

Thousands in Hong Kong held a protest march on Sunday calling for direct elections in 2012, in a public rebuke against Beijing's decision not to permit universal suffrage that year, but allow it in 2017 instead.

The peaceful protest march, which police said drew over 6,000 people, was the largest public demonstration in Hong Kong since a landmark ruling by China's parliament on December 29, which barred direct elections in 2012, but left open the possibility of picking the city's leader by universal suffrage in 2017.

Organisers said 22,000 people attended the rally. "We want universal suffrage in 2012. Return our right for universal suffrage," the crowds chanted into loudhailers. Wearing black and white clothes, the protesters, led by Hong Kong's elderly Catholic leader Cardinal Joseph Zen, marched several kilometers through Hong Kong's streets and waved banners with such slogans as: "Democracy delayed is democracy denied".

"Hong Kong's democratic development has been too slow, we want it to be faster," said protester Irene Wong.