08/18/2014, 00.00
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Pro-Beijing activists take to Hong Kong streets to protest against the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement

Tens of thousands of people march to denounce the "threat" posed by democracy activists. Among the demonstrators, there were many "tourists" from mainland China and people paid to protest. For others, employers' pressures "convinced" them to take part in the event. For the leaders of the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement, the struggle continues.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) - An alliance of pro-Beijing groups claims that yesterday's rally shows that most Hong Kongers are opposed to the pro-democracy campaign by the 'Occupy Central' movement.

Yesterday's rally drew in fact people from mainland China who crossed the border to take part in the event held in the Hong Kong Autonomous Region. Many demonstrators also received money and free meal coupons to highlight the close ties between Hong Kong and Beijing.

Organised by pro-government the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, the rally saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets to protest against the "threat" posed by those who want to paralyse the government by demanding democratic reforms and universal suffrage in the election of the chief executive in 2017.

In the aftermath of the march, reactions were mixed as the usual discussion over numbers got underway. Some put the number at about 80,000. Other sources said that at more than 100,000 took part.

Some of the demonstrators were mainland "tourists" as well as members of patriotic groups and associations based in Hong Kong and the mainland.

Local sources said that some of the demonstrators were employees of certain companies who were pressured by management to take part in the event.

Others are said to have received money and free meal coupons for Victoria Park restaurants, which eventually saw a spike in customers later in the day, in order to boost the pro-government crowd.

Overall, the weekend event went off without a hitch, although there were minor incidents between pro-democracy protesters and opponents, with the arrest of four men aged 36 to 58.

For Starry Lee Wai-king, a lawmaker for the pro-Beijing alliance, "The turnout shows many Hong Kong people do not want to see Occupy Central happen. [The Occupy Central] activists have gone too far."

In fact, some of the so-called protesters left the march after a few hundred metres; many also did not want to answer questions from reporters.

Chan Kin-man, one of the Occupy Central leaders, said he respected the protesters' right to their opinion, but added that the struggle for democracy would continue in Hong Kong.

In recent months, the Occupy Central movement tried to raise awareness in the population about the need for universal suffrage and the direct election of the chief executive.

For this purpose, it organised sit-ins, and even an unofficial referendum that saw the participation of 800,000 people. After that, at least 510,000 people took part in a pro-democracy rally on 1 July.

Still, for the current chief executive, such a huge mass of people represents only "some divergent views," unworthy of being mentioned by name.

In Hong Kong, divisions are still deep between pro-democracy activists and the pro-Beijing camp, which is opposed to the direct election of the region's chief executive.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Card Joseph Zen and the three new auxiliary bishops of the diocese said they support the struggle for democracy.

The bishops asked the chief executive to delay the presentation of the report on reform in Beijing, to allow for more discussion with the population.

For Card Zen, the battle for religious freedom and civil liberties "are one and the same" both in "China and Hong Kong."

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