Thousands to march against Hong Kong leader

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to rally in Hong Kong Tuesday, calling for the city's embattled new chief executive to quit and for greater democracy.

Organisers are expecting 50,000 people to turn up at the New Year day's march against Leung Chun-ying, while pro-government groups staged a separate and smaller rival rally in support of the Beijing-backed leader.

Since taking office in July, Leung's popularity ratings have tumbled and he has faced a no-confidence vote in the legislature amid a row over illegal structures at his luxury home -- a politically sensitive issue in the city.

Leung has acknowledged and apologised for the structures, which were built without planning permission and include a wooden trellis and a glass enclosure.

He became chief executive after his rival to the post, Henry tang, was brought down by a row over illegal structures at his home.

Protesters have used the scandal to press for universal suffrage in choosing the leader of the former British colony, which was returned to Beijing in 1997 but maintains a semi-autonomous status.

Leung was elected by a 1,200-strong election committee packed with a pro-Beijing elite in March, amid rising anger among the city's seven million inhabitants over what many perceive to be China meddling in local affairs.

Beijing has said the city's chief executive could be directly elected in 2017 at the earliest, with the legislature following by 2020.

"We want to push for Leung's resignation to further push for democratic elections in Hong Kong," Jackie Hung, a spokeswoman for protest organiser Civil Human Rights Front, told AFP ahead of the march through the streets to the government headquarters, due to start at 3pm (0700 GMT).

About 4,000 pro-government supporters held a separate rally ahead of the mass demonstration, chanting "support CY (Leung), support the government".

Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions honorary president Cheng Yiu-tong said: "We get together today to support the government in developing the economy, better the lives of people. This is the wish of all Hong Kong people."

In a bid to tackle discontent, Leung has banned mainland women from giving birth in Hong Kong and introduced policies to prioritise housing for locals, a move analysts say was a reaction to mainland buyers pushing up prices in the city, one of the world's most expensive.

The city's South China Morning Post newspaper said about 1,000 police will be deployed for Tuesday's marches, following scuffles over the weekend at a pro-government rally that saw two journalists assaulted.


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