Hong Kong handover: Protesters defy police to light flame of democracy

Just 30 minutes after China took over Hong Kong, the Democratic Party put on a boisterous demonstration at the Legislative Council building in the centre of town. They called for democracy and freedom, condemned the new China-appointed provisional legislature, and vowed to return to office through election next year.

An orderly crowd of about 6,000 people, including several hundred local and foreign journalists, gathered at Chater Gardens and outside the Legco Building, where the Democratic Party leader Martin Lee went on the balcony and gave a forthright "July 1 Declaration".

"We are proud to be Chinese, but we also want to ask why China cannot give us more freedom," Mr Lee said. "If there is no democracy, there will be no rule of law; if there is no freedom, human rights will not be respected.

"Hong Kong has been known as Pearl of the Orient. Where does its lustre come from? It comes from our freedom. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese have come to Hong Kong precisely for freedom. We want the freedom we are entitled to under the Joint Declaration."

Despite objections from the head of the provisional legislature which replaced the elected Legco when China took over sovereignty, the police kept a low-key presence and let the protesters proceed.

A series of pre-declaration activities were held yesterday evening, starting with passionate speeches by political commentators expressing their concern for democratic development in Hong Kong. There were readings, dramas and concerts.

Before the arrival of Mr Lee, veteran Democratic leader Szeto Wah delivered a "Handover Speech", reiterating the party's stance: "support sovereignty, defend democracy". He also expressed the belief that, with the support of the people, the party would be able to make a come-back next year through election.

Soon after midnight, "Flames of Democracy" were ignited by Mr Szeto and his colleagues, while an excited crowd sang patriotic songs. Later, the short-sleeved demonstrators chanted slogans such as "Long Live Democracy", unaffected by the heat, rain and thunder.

All speakers pointed out that the return of sovereignty to China not only marked the end of colonial rule, but also represented a step back against democratic development. Political commentator Ray Wong described the in-coming Chinese rulers as "authoritarian", saying that Hong Kong people were mature enough to elect their own legislature.

Another pro-democracy political party, the Frontier, put on a parade outside the Legco building. Led by journalist-turned-leader Emily Lau, several hundred protesters marched, holding candle lights and banners saying "Power to the people" and "Improve people 's livelihood, and chanting slogans such as "Down with [Premier] Li Peng" and "Down with [President] Jiang Zemin".

The Democratic Party, led by the lawyer Martin Lee, is the biggest and most popular political group in the former British colony, which won a dominant number of seats in the Legco election in 1995. But Peking refused to acknowledge the legality of the election, insisting that the political reforms introduced by the last Governor Chris Patten were against Sino- British agreements and Hong Kong's post-handover constitution. Last year, an interim body from which pro-democracy politicians were excluded, was set up.

The post-handover leader Tung Chee-hwa, who backs the provisional legislature, has said that the first Hong Kong Special Administrative Region legislature election will be held in May 1998. Despite reports that the rules might be changed to his party's disadvantage, Mr Lee vowed: "We shall return."

Despite the countless celebrations going on all over the city, the Chater Gardens and streets outside the Legco Building were packed with - mostly young - demonstrators. Local businessman Allan Chan said: "I think Hong Kong people should support the Democratic Party, because now that the British are gone, the Democrats will be the only people who can speak for us and defend our freedom. I think if the Democratic Party cannot survive under Chinese rule, then Hong Kong's future will not be promising."

Another office manager, Justin Tse, 23, said that he had voted for the Democrats in 1995 and would continue to do so in next year's election. But he did not think he would participate in future protest.

"I think after the People's Liberation Army soldiers are here, most Hong Kong people will not dare to demonstrate, for fear of being punished. At least I will not, " he said.

"This will be the last time I demonstrate with the Democrats. But I hope they will not shut up."

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit