HK pro-government activists rally against Occupy protest
By Dennis Chong, AFP
August 18, 2014, 12:02 am TWN
HONG KONG--Thousands protested in Hong Kong Sunday against plans by pro-democracy activists to paralyze the city center with a mass sit-in unless China grants acceptable electoral reforms.
Public discontent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city is at its highest for years, with concern at perceived interference by Beijing and growing divisions over how Hong Kong's leader should be chosen in 2017 under the planned reforms.
Pro-democracy campaigners from the Occupy Central group have pledged to mobilize protesters to block roads in the Central financial district later this year if authorities reject the public's right to nominate candidates for the chief executive post.
But the movement has been strongly criticized by Beijing and city officials as illegal, radical and potentially violent.
Organizers of Sunday's rally, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, say the silent majority of the city's seven million residents do not support the Occupy movement.
"We want to let the world know that we want peace, we want democracy, but please, do not threaten us, do not try to turn this place into a place of violence," alliance co-founder Robert Chow told AFP.
Organizers said more than 120,000 people had signed up to indicate they would attend the rally. Thousands wearing red clothes and waving Chinese flags filled the starting point in Victoria Park when a march began shortly after 1:30 p.m. (0530 GMT).