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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hong Kong Protesters Demand Direct Elections

HONG KONG -- Thousands of people marched through Hong Kong on Sunday to demand the right to pick the city's leader and the entire legislature in 2012.

More than 5,500 people also hoisted umbrellas to form the numbers 2012 -- their target year for full democracy -- before they started off, pro-democracy lawmaker Ronny Tong said.

They occupied three football pitches in a Hong Kong park.

The crowd chanted "One person one vote, the only way to go" and "Universal suffrage in 2012" as they marched to government headquarters.

Organizers said 7,000 people took part in the march while police said 4,600 arrived at government headquarters.

Citizens of Hong Kong do not have the right to pick the territory's leader. An 800-member election committee, considered partial to Beijing, makes the selection. Only half of the local legislative assembly's 60 lawmakers are directly elected. The rest are picked by special interest groups, such as business and labor unions.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 but was promised a wide degree of autonomy under a "one country, two systems" formula. Beijing ruled out full democracy for the territory before 2008.

Many Hong Kongers believe that the city is ready for democratic reforms, but Beijing loyalists -- especially those in the business community -- worry that political changes will create social upheaval and upset the economy.

The government has issued a consultation paper containing various proposals on how and when the city's leader and legislature should be elected. Pro-democracy lawmakers who want direct elections as soon as possible have criticized the document, however, saying it is confusing to the public because it lists many options.