Hong Kong: March For Democracy on New Year's Day

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Congregating outside the city's legislature, thousands of protesters carried colorful banners with slogans such as "Democracy Now"… as peaceful crowds of young and old wended their way downtown to Beijing's representative office.

Others held up massive posters of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo… demanding the prominent activist and writer be freed after being recently jailed for 11 years on a subversion charge.

While Beijing has promised to allow a popular election in Hong Kong in 2017 for the city's leader, recent signs have suggested Beijing may only allow a power-preserving version of democracy… with rules stacked against opposition candidates.

Hong Kong's mini-constitution guarantees full democracy as an "ultimate aim," but the city's seven million people have no direct say in their leader.

The protesters also called for the abolition of special interest groups or so-called functional constituencies, which now make up half the seats in the city's legislature.

Organizers say more than 10,000 people showed up on the New Year’s Day march, while police put the number at over 4,000.

This latest mass public appeal for democracy and civil rights comes as political tensions begin heating up in the former British colony.

A group of five pro-democracy legislators are now poised to resign en masse from the city's legislature, following the release of a political reform blueprint for elections in 2012, which the city's democrats say didn't go far enough.

In 2003, half a million protesters spilled onto the streets in anger at the administration of Hong Kong's then-leader Tung Chee-hwa who resigned soon afterwards.

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