Clarification added, July 2, 2014:
Almost 100,000 pro-democracy protesters marched through Hong Kong on Tuesday during an annual rally to mark the anniversary of the territory’s return to China in 1997.
Mass demonstrations have taken place annually on July 1 in Hong Kong for more than a decade. But this year the territory’s discontent has shifted significantly against mainland China — and stems from many residents’ fears that Beijing is curtailing Hong Kong’s autonomy.
“I think Beijing is trying to tighten the controls of democracy in Hong Kong. But I think it’s a type of war game,” said Gary Sik, a financial consultant from Hong Kong who took part in the demonstration.
The protest comes after an estimated 800,000 votes were cast in an unofficial referendum on how the territory’s top leader, the chief executive, should be elected. Citizens in Hong Kong are not allowed to nominate candidates for the position; candidates are chosen by an electoral college that is largely seen as sympathetic to Beijing.
And public nomination rights are what protesters like Janice Yeung, a 27-year-old secretary from Hong Kong, are pushing for.
“Just like other countries, Hong Kong is a developed city — an international city. So I think Hong Kong should decide our future by [ourselves] — and not by Beijing or any other people,” she said.
Clarification: Hong Kong police estimated the number of protesters at 100,000, while the protesters put it at several times that figure.