JUDY WOODRUFF: In Hong Kong today, a major anniversary was marked with pomp, while a sea of demonstrators took to the streets calling for more rights.
We have a report from John Sparks of Independent Television News.
JOHN SPARKS, Independent Television News: It’s something of a tradition, an annual ceremony to mark the handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. Soldiers salute, children sing, flags are waved, a celebration, said Chinese state media, of the territory’s return to the motherland.
Here’s another tradition, large-scale pro-democracy demos. And this afternoon, Hong Kong hosted its biggest single protest in more than a decade, more than 100,000 spilling into the streets, demanding greater autonomy from Beijing and a chance to choose who governs them.
LEE CHEUK-YAN, Member, Legislative Council of Hong Kong: So, we must fight to protect our system and also make it into a fairer society. So, the whole Hong Kong, the (INAUDIBLE) itself is at stake.
KENNIE CHAN (through interpreter): It’s obvious China cannot stand the people of Hong Kong, but we are not going to be obedient anymore. We are going to resist.
JOHN SPARKS: Discontent was fueled by a Chinese government white paper which seemed to limit the city’s autonomy. Enraged, activists are now threatening a campaign of civil disobedience.
Of course, that’s made Beijing’s unhappy. It says the protests are illegal, the work of just a few people. And the city government is upset too. The leader, C.Y. Leung, who was selected by a Beijing-backed committee, says the protests threaten Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.
He has reason to be worried. Last weekend, nearly 800,000 residents participated in an informal vote, a referendum on how to make the selection of the next city leader more democratic. The Chinese government called the whole thing, well, illegal. Still, the organizers weren’t listening.
BENNY TAI, Referendum Co-Organizer: Hong Kong people have — stand out and we have expressed our very strong determination to have true democracy.
JOHN SPARKS: Today, they opened up the gates at the Hong Kong barracks of the People’s Liberation Army. It was a friendly affair, but if the protests continue, few would rule out a show of force from the Chinese government.