Umbrellas aloft, thousands march for democracy in Hong Kong

Sunday's protest march was the first since mass demonstrations last year shone a spotlight on dissatisfaction among young voters in Hong Kong. Beijing insists on vetting candidates who stand for the city-state's top executive position. 

Liau Chung-ren/Reuters
Protesters carrying yellow umbrellas, the symbol of the Occupy movement, march on a street in Hong Kong Feb. 1, 2015. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters marched in the first large-scale rally since protests rocked the city late last year.

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators marched through Hong Kong's streets Sunday in the first major rally since mass protests last year.

Chanting "No fake universal suffrage. I want genuine universal suffrage," the demonstrators held yellow umbrellas, which became a symbol of the earlier protests when the activists wielded them as a defense against police using pepper spray.

The event appeared orderly and peaceful throughout the day. The annual march usually is held on Jan. 1 but was delayed for a month this year to coincide with the government's second round of consultations on electoral reform.

The demonstrators oppose the Chinese government's decision that candidates in the 2017 election for Hong Kong chief executive will be vetted by a largely Beijing-controlled nominating committee.

The final election plan must be approved by a two-thirds majority in Hong Kong's Legislative Council before submitting to authorities in Beijing. But pro-democracy legislators, who hold 40 percent of the seats, have said they would veto the screening proposal.

"This is pseudo universal suffrage, we do not have the rights to elect who we want," said protester Julia Choi.

Organizers said 13,000 people participated, while police said they counted 8,000 at the march's peak.

Police had raised no objection to the march, though the formal notice the department issued last weekend stressed that organizers should ensure none of the marchers tried to occupy streets as happened during the mass protests last year.

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