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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Protesters To March In Hong Kong

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong is heading for a showdown with China after leading political forces Friday urged people to take to the streets and fight for democracy.

Pro-democracy parties and labour unions united in a call for a protest march to China's local headquarters Sunday to resist Beijing's efforts to abolish the elected legislature.

"We urge Hong Kong people to stand up and fight for democracy," the democratic movement said in a statement.

A fight over control of Hong Kong's civil service and its legislature escalated Friday as pro-Beijing voices blasted colonial Governor Chris Patten and accused him of fomenting unrest.

China-funded media in the territory said Patten, London and the United States were out to wreck China's plans for Hong Kong when it takes back the thriving capitalist colony from Britain on July 1 next year.

The protest call was in response to China's drive to snuff out the territory's hard-won democracy after the handover in 459 days time.

It followed a week-long tug-o-war over China's decision to replace the Legislative Council, or Legco, with an appointed body.

Beijing also this week demanded a loyalty pledge from Hong Kong's senior officials and insisted on controlling the 1997-98 budget, despite its treaty pledge to grant the territory a high degree of autonomy for 50 years after the handover.

Hong Kong will become a Special Administrative Region, or SAR, of China. Steps to abolish the existing Legco and replace it with a provisional legislature were initiated last Sunday by Beijing's hand-picked Preparatory Committee.

"Such a preposterous decision is intolerable," the democracy movement said as it called for the protest march. "This means the Hong Kong people's democratically elected representatives will be thrown out of the legislature," it said.

The alliance includes independent trade unions, the Democratic Party led by lawyer Martin Lee and one of China's fiercest critics, as well as outspoken independent legislators Emily Lau and Christine Loh, and other pro-democracy groups.

Democratic Party vice-chairman Yeung Sum told local radio an opinion poll by his party indicated most of Hong Kong's 6.3 million people were opposed to the provisional legislature.

Sunday's march will end at China's Xinhua Building, near the territory's annual international Rugby Sevens tournament, which is taking place over the weekend.

The protesters will convey two messages to China: a protest against the provisional legislature and a demand for fully democratic elections for the legislature and chief executive.

Under Patten, Hong Kong held its most representative polls ever last September, when up to 70 percent of voters cast their ballots for the pro-democracy groups.

The election was for 20 of Legco's 60 seats, the highest level of direct balloting in a century and a half of colonial rule. The other 40 seats are filled by indirect elections.

China said the election breached a 1984 Sino-British treaty on Hong Kong's handover and vowed to reverse the democratic reforms that led to the 1995 Legco polls.

Patten enraged Beijing last weekend with his "black day for democracy" condemnation of Beijing's decision to dissolve Legco. Beijing then upped the stakes when a senior official said Hong Kong mandarins must vow loyalty to the future legislature, even while their present masters opposed it.