Hong Kong Protesters March, but Crowd Smaller Than Organizers Hoped

A smaller-than-expected crowd attended a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015.
ENLARGE

HONG KONG—A pro-democracy rally here—the first since the three-month occupation of some major Hong Kong streets ended in December—drew a smaller-than-expected crowd for a loud, but orderly, march through areas where protesters once camped.

On Sunday, marchers carried yellow umbrellas that were the symbol of the protests, which began last September in response to the Chinese government’s August ruling that candidates for election to the city’s highest office would need to be approved by a committee of largely pro-Beijing members.

Rally organizers from the Civil Human Rights Front had expected up to 50,000 people would take part, but estimated about 13,000 marched. Police said they estimated the march drew 8,800 at its peak, with 6,600 leaving from the walk’s starting point at Victoria Park.

The rally marked the first mass demonstration since late last year when authorities cleared the so-called Occupy protests, which had paralyzed major roadways for more than 2½ months and, at their height, featured violent clashes between protesters and police.

During Sunday’s march, protesters with loudspeakers issued calls for full democracy in Hong Kong. Police were present along the route, and had warned against any attempts at occupying the city’s streets again.

Organizers didn’t plan for people to remain on the street after the march, which was expected to finish Sunday evening, although “maybe some will go to other places to continue the struggle,” said Daisy

Chan,

a spokeswoman for Civil Human Rights Front.

“I did not have high expectations,”

Benny Tai,

one of the organizers of the Occupy movement, said of the march. “We need time to regain our strength, people are really exhausted.”

Sunday’s rally is an annual event that usually takes place on Jan. 1. The event was delayed for a month to give protesters time to rest and to ensure the march took place during a period of public consultation on the voting rules.

Other leaders of last year’s protest movement, including some student leaders, were present Sunday, according to Ms. Chan.

Write to Chao Deng at Chao.Deng@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/hong-kong-protesters-march-but-crowd-smaller-than-organizers-hoped-1422783765?mod=loomia

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