Over 58,000 strongly motivated people participated in the march for democracy. Police have sought to scale down the figures.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) "Having universal suffrage here will be good for Hong Kong and for China," Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop of Hong Kong, told some 300 Christians who gathered to pray before yesterday's march for democracy. The march went from Victoria Park up to the central government offices in the Admiralty neighbourhood. Cardinal Zen, a resolute champion of democracy in the territory, said some local and Chinese politicians claimed that since the economy of Hong Kong was improving, there was no need for democracy. Some sections of the business sector and pro-Beijing politicians even back the idea that democracy is an evil for the economy. "Such opinions seek to put the economy and politics at opposite poles. In fact, universal suffrage will be very helpful for the people's livelihood," said the cardinal. "This is the ninth anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; the Basic Law [the mini-constitution of Hong Kong, also signed by China] promised the people of Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy But the present situation seems to contradict this affirmation. There has been no progress, and in fact it seems that there have been some setbacks."
For over a year, the diocese of Hong Kong and Protestant communities have been pitted in a struggle against the government, which wants to control (and perhaps nationalize) the territory's schools. "Let's rely on God to revitalize ourselves. When we persist, we will meet our aim," added the cardinal. The gathered assembly then prayed for Hong Kong's society, that there may be full democracy and that the dignity and rights of the people may be recognized.
The organizers of the march, based on the themes of "Justice, Equality, Democracy", said this was not an all-out challenge against Beijing or the government of Hong Kong, but a realization of the principle [of Deng Xiaoping] of "one country, two systems".
"The march is not to challenge the central government of Beijing," said Anson Chan. "It is just to express our wish for democracy." Chan, the ex-secretary general of the last English government and of the first administration under China, officially joined the march for the first time. Her presence prompted many people to participate.
The organizers said at least 58,000 people joined the march through the streets of the centre. But the police who offered conflicting data said that at most 28,000 people had turned up.
The march for democracy has been a tradition since 1 July 2003, when more than half a million people took to the streets to protest a proposed anti-subversion law and to criticize the failings of the first governor picked by China, shipowner, Tung Chee-hwa.
A survey carried out by the University of Hong Kong yesterday reported that over 96% of respondents said democracy was "very important" or "important"; 73% said they joined the march because they were dissatisfied with the Hong Kong government and 66% because they were unhappy with the Beijing government. Eighty-eight per cent were in total agreement with the march slogan.