HONG KONG, April 1, 2012 (AFP) - Thousands of Hong Kong people staged a noisy protest Sunday against the city's incoming government chief and decried Beijing's alleged interference in the city's recent leadership election.
Holding banners and chanting slogans such as "One person, one vote" and "Leung step down", the protesters marched through the busy city centre to Beijing's representative office in the semi-autonomous territory.
It was the first major protest since Leung Chun-ying, 57, was elected as Hong Kong's next chief executive on March 25 by a 1,200-strong election committee packed with pro-Beijing elites.
The former British colony, which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, enjoys broad freedoms not seen on mainland China under the "One country, two systems" model, but does not yet get to choose its own leader by popular vote.
"Beijing blatantly interfered in our election," said retiree Lam Sum-shing, 69, who was wearing a green army uniform and a mask with Leung's photo.
"I'm wearing this to show he will be a yes man for Beijing. He was not chosen by the seven million Hong Kong people, he's chosen merely by 689 pro-Beijing elitists," Lam told AFP.
There was no crowd figure from police or organisers but an AFP reporter estimated the winding procession to number at least 5,000 people.
The protesters also held up a huge black banner with the Chinese character "mourning" to highlight what they called "the death of democracy", and posters saying "The Wolf is here".
That referred to Leung's nickname, coined for his perceived ruthlessness and cunning. The self-made millionaire property consultant beat Henry Tang, the Hong Kong government's former number two, in the election a week ago.
Tang was seen as Beijing's favoured candidate until a series of gaffes and scandals wrecked his campaign. The government in China then reportedly relayed to election committee members that they should support Leung instead.
Opinion polls before the election suggested that many in Hong Kong backed neither Leung nor Tang, but wanted universal suffrage to choose a new leader to replace outgoing chief executive Donald Tsang from July.
Leung will be Hong Kong's third post-handover leader. Beijing has said that at the earliest, the city's chief executive could be directly elected in 2017 and the legislature by 2020.
AFP 010910 GMT APR 12