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Hong Kong activists vow to continue democracy push

Hong Kong activists vow to continue democracy push

Hong Kong activists on Tuesday vowed to press ahead with their new campaign for democratic reforms in the Chinese territory despite a backlash from Beijing and tepid public support.
Although Hong Kong retained some Western-style freedoms after it shifted from British rule in 1997, the Chinese government wields considerable control over who leads and represents the territory.
Hong Kong's leader is chosen by an 800-member committee stacked with Beijing loyalists. Its legislature is half-elected and half-chosen by interest groups that tend to side with China.
In the latest push for political reform, five pro-democracy legislators _ one from each of Hong Kong's five major electoral districts _ resigned on Jan. 26. The idea was to trigger a special election that would pit opposition candidates against pro-Beijing ones, setting up a de facto territory-wide referendum on democracy.
But the referendum campaign has struggled to generate momentum. The Chinese government criticized it as a challenge to its authority and questioned its legality. While the Hong Kong government, which enjoys semiautonomous status, will stage the by-election, Beijing's local allies have refused to field candidates. With the May 16 election just over a month away, public interest has been lackluster, with opinion polls showing consistently that half or more of the Hong Kong population opposing the campaign.
On Tuesday, only several hundred people turned up for a protest march to raise awareness of the special election _ even though it was a public holiday. The small crowd chanted, "Launch direct elections as soon as possible" and "Referendum for justice" at a local park before setting off for Hong Kong's government headquarters.
The activists behind the resignations acknowledged that their campaign hadn't gone as planned, but said it was important to press forward.
"As long as Hong Kong doesn't have democracy, we must persevere," one of the legislators who resigned and is running for his old seat, Albert Chan, told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the protest.
"The movement has been lukewarm. We really hope to use the remaining five weeks to push sentiment higher," said Alan Leong, another one of the five lawmakers who quit.
Hong Kong's most prominent democracy advocate, Martin Lee, urged locals to still vote on May 16 _ even as he acknowledged the prospect of a low turnout.
"Our message is still clear: We should cast a vote for democracy. We should vote to lobby for direct elections for all political offices as soon as possible," Lee said.


Updated : 2021-05-10 11:15 GMT+08:00