Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Tuesday to demand the resignation of embattled chief executive Leung Chun-ying and universal elections for his replacement.
They marched from their gathering place in Victoria Park to government headquarters amid a strong police presence, shouting "C.Y. Leung resign!" and "Full elections now!" and "Hong Kong's future in our hands!"
Organizers said that 130,000 people joined the demonstration, although police said that only 17,000 protesters left the park at the start of the march.
Jackie Hung, spokeswoman for march organizers the Civil Human Rights Front, said the main focus of the protest was to demand Leung's removal and replacement with a fully elected leader.
"We want a credible and responsible government which is chosen by the Hong Kong people," she told reporters.
Leung was narrowly selected for the chief executive job this year by a pro-Beijing committee, although Hong Kong has been promised full and direct elections of the chief executive and the legislature by 2020.
"Right from the start, Leung only won 689 votes [out of a possible 1,132], and he has no mandate from the people," said Lee Shing-hong of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, who joined the march.
"Also, I think that he hasn't protected a lot of people's freedoms."
"Hong Kong's problems will only be solved by his resignation and by universal elections," Lee said.
A protester surnamed Deng said she was marching out of concern that Hong Kong's traditional freedoms had been eroded since the handover of the former British colony to China in 1997, and that Beijing was exerting more and more control over the territory's political life.
"I am unhappy that Leung Chun-ying is still in the post of chief executive, and I hope he will resign soon," she said.
"In the longer term, I want Hong Kong to have universal suffrage, and not to be controlled by the Chinese Communist Party any more."
A protester surnamed Fung said he was unhappy with Leung's integrity as a leader.
"I came over from Kowloon to take part, to oppose this administration and Leung Chun-ying," he said. "The government should understand people's anger, and they should admit it when they have done something wrong."
"He says one thing, and does another," Fung said.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong's Legislative Council tried to oust Leung via a vote of no confidence which was defeated by 34 votes to 27, after it emerged that he had carried out building work at his property without securing the necessary approval.
A civil servant surnamed Xie said he had already taken part in large demonstrations last year calling for the resignation of his ultimate boss.
"He does nothing to help Hong Kong citizens," Xie said. "He can't lead the civil service, either."
A government spokesman said the administration respects people's right to demonstrate and to self-expression. "The administration will listen to their views in a humble manner," he said.
Joseph Cheng, political science professor at Hong Kong's City University, said the city's chief executives are seen as weak leaders who seek the approval of Beijing for their decisions.
"They don't just do this when making Hong Kong government policy; they will also get the central government liaison office to put pressure on legislators if they are trying to pass an unpopular law," Cheng said.
"We are seeing a growing amount of interference by the Chinese authorities in Hong Kong affairs," he said. "This interference by the central government was particularly in evidence at the chief executive elections last year."
Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.