Thousands Protest in Hong Kong as New Chief Executive Sworn In

Posted July 1st, 2012 at 2:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong Sunday as the territory marked its 15th year under Chinese rule and a new leader was sworn in during a ceremony led by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The march, which organizers said had close to 400,000 participants, was widely peaceful amid a heavy police presence. The protesters are angry about what they see as the erosion of social and political freedoms under Chinese rule.

Sunday's annual July 1 rally came as Leung Chun-ying took the oath of office in a tightly guarded ceremony exactly 15 years after the territory passed from British to Chinese rule.

During the ceremony, Mr. Hu expressed China's support for Hong Kong as a free society, saying Chinese officials remain committed to the one country, two systems plan.

He was briefly heckled as he spoke, by a lone protester demanding an end to one-party rule and what he called a dictatorship in China, before being wrestled away by security personnel.

Leung, in his speech, said his government will work to tackle the grievances of the people of Hong Kong.

Leung, a wealthy property consultant, takes over from outgoing leader Donald Tsang. He has already attracted protests from those who see him as too closely linked with Beijing.

On Saturday, police scuffled with protesters who came out to demand an explanation for the suspicious death of Chinese dissident Li Wangyang this month. Li was a labor rights activist and one of the leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

One reporter was briefly detained after asking President Hu about China's 1989 crackdown on protesters around the square.

In a speech Saturday, the Chinese leader expressed confidence in the new government in Hong Kong. China's official news agency Xinhua quoted him as saying that the city leaders will be able to unite all sectors of society and lead them to turn Hong Kong into an international metropolis with “economic prosperity, political structural democracy and social harmony.”

Mr. Hu also praised close ties between the mainland and Hong Kong, which has the status of China's special administrative region.

Mr. Hu arrived in Hong Kong Friday on a three-day trip.