09/23/2014, 00.00
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Thousands of Hong Kong students in the streets "for democracy and freedom"

Over 13,000 people join peaceful strike that starts a weeklong protest action against Beijing's restrictions on universal suffrage. Participants include students from mainland China who are impressed by protesters' passion. "It's great for Hong Kong students to have their say. We do not have it on the mainland. Even if we have thoughts, we dare not say them out loud," said one student.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - More than 13,000 people turned up in support of the classroom boycott, forming a white sea according to some local media at the Chinese University campus where the protest action had started. The gathering included teachers, secondary school pupils and members of the public, as well as mainland students, all united in their desire to persuade Beijing to respect its promises to grant Hong Kong full universal suffrage.

The Federation of Students and the group Scholarism organised the protest. Federation's secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang ended this morning's events outside the offices of the current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Along with scores of student leaders, he brought "a pen and notebook", calling on Leung to meet them within 48 hours.

Members of the Federation of Students and other activists tried to present Leung with a pen and paper to remind him of what he said during his 2012 election campaign as a token of his willingness to listen to the public.

After the Chinese central government rejected local demands in relation to the 2017 vote, Occupy Central - a non-violent pro-democracy movement active in the former British colony - began strikes and public protests.

Instead, Beijing decided to implement a system of election that would allow two or three candidates to run for the top post, indirectly expressing voters' wishes.

For students from the mainland, the protest represents a dilemma. One, from Beijing, said she had "no idea which side is right". Still, another was impressed by the protesters' passion. "This is very powerful. It's great for Hong Kong students to have their say. We do not have it on the mainland. Even if we have thoughts, we dare not say them out loud," said the woman.

Now however, mainland China's restrictions against protest in Hong Kong could get even tighter as Beijing plans to play a more active role in the city's affairs.

In fact, during a meeting between President Xi Jinping with senior figures from the former British colony, the Communist leader told the representatives of the city's business and professional sectors that "'one country, two systems" will stay, but that it must be tailored to the specific situation of the country and the city.

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