Mass protests in Hong Kong as new leader is sworn in
Tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators gathered to protest 15 years of Chinese rule as Hong Kong's third chief executive was being sworn in.
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In mid-afternoon, tens of thousands of protesters began marching toward the newly built government headquarters complex onHong Kong Island in sweltering heat, beating drums and waving British colonial flags in a gesture of nostalgia for an era during which democratic rights were limited but the rule of law was firmly in place.Skip to next paragraph
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The protesters jammed the route of the march, a series of thoroughfares bordered by high-rise apartments and office buildings. There was occasional tension with the thousands of police officers deployed to maintain order, but by and large the event went off peacefully.
Organizers said more than 400,000 participated while police estimated there were 63,000 at the procession's peak. Hu left Hong Kongbefore the march began.
In his speech, Hu said Hong Kong residents now have more democratic rights and freedoms than ever before - a reminder that China has largely kept the promise it made when it regained the territory from Britain to keep Hong Kong's relatively open political system in place for 50 years.
But that did little to assuage the feelings of the protesters, who see China's Communist Party rule as strongly at odds with the values that many inherited from a British-influenced education, and the continuing spread of democracy to Asian neighbors like South Korea and Chinese-speaking Taiwan.
"China's way of thinking is totally different from ours," said builder Bono Lau, 46. "Tung Chee-hwa talked about one country, two systems but there's no more of that nowadays."
Beijing has pledged that Hong Kong can elect its own leader in 2017 and all legislators by 2020 at the earliest, but no roadmap has been laid out.
Calls for democracy have been catalyzed by the stunted election that catapulted Leung to power and by corruption scandals surrounding his predecessor. Ordinary Hong Kongers fear that the political system in place since 1997 has resulted in the city's billionaire tycoons having too much influence over senior government officials. Government data now show that income inequality has risen to its highest level in four decades.
Leung himself was implicated in an embarrassing scandal just last week when it emerged that he had made six illegal additions to his mansion in an exclusive neighborhood on Hong Kong Island's Victoria Peak.
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