Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters stage 'black cloth' march in Hong Kong

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 14, 2014 5:48 AM

By Donny Kwok and Diana Chan

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters wearing small yellow ribbons marched silently through Hong Kong on Sunday, with banners saying they felt betrayed and angry at Beijing's refusal to allow fully-democratic elections for the city's next chief executive in 2017.

The protesters, who carried enormous black cloth ribbons and waved British colonial flags, held up signs calling for further civil disobedience and cheering on students planning to boycott classes next week.

"Support students boycotting classes!" and "Occupy Central with Love and Peace!" read some of the signs. "Beijing has breached our trust! Universal suffrage is hopeless!" read another one.

Dozens of pro-establishment protesters gathered nearby waving banners and cursing the democracy activists and students.

"Students should focus on studying," shouted Pok Chun-chung, an organizer of the pro-establishment "Protect Hong Kong" movement. "If you adults have guts then you should occupy Central yourself, not use children as cannon fodder!"

The protest remained peaceful in the early evening and police stood by.

Sunday's march was the latest in a series of confrontations between pro-democracy activists and pro-establishment forces over the extent to which Hong Kong may go ahead with democratic reforms.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to Communist Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" form of government. It was given wide-ranging autonomy, including an undated promise of "universal suffrage".

Beijing this summer has made it clear it will not allow fully-democratic elections.

Earlier on Sunday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying published an open letter to residents of the special administrative region of China, urging them to be "pragmatic" and to form an "accurate and complete understanding of the constitutional and political context in which we find ourselves."

He said constitutional reform should move forward whatever the pace and that if pan-democrats voted down Beijing's proposal it would be their fault that Hong Kong was not as democratic as it could be. He also said there could be additional reforms in the future.

Amid escalating tensions, pro-democracy activists have held an unofficial referendum, mass marches and rallies and an overnight sit-in that lead to hundreds of arrests. A student boycott of classes is expected later this month, followed by another sit-in in the city's central business district.

(Reporting by Diana Chan, Donny Kwok, Tyrone Siu and Venus Wu; Writing by Clare Baldwin; Editing by Kim Coghill)