Posted: Jan 1, 2013 8:48 AM by AP/CS
HONG KONG (AP) - Thousands of people marched in Hong Kong on the first day of 2013 to call for the city's Beijing-backed leader to step down over allegations he was untruthful about illegal renovations at his mansion.
Police say 17,000 people gathered at the start of the march Tuesday. Organizers say 130,000 took part.
They carried banners and chanted slogans urging the leader, Leung Chun-ying, to resign. Some held signs depicting Leung as Pinocchio or as a wolf with fangs. Many waved Hong Kong's British colonial-era flag.
In the evening, several hundred members of a small radical group briefly blocked roads after they were stopped by authorities from marching to Leung's official government residence. At one point, protesters pushed and shoved with police.
The protest comes half a year after Leung took office after being chosen by a 1,193-member committee of mostly pro-Beijing elites. Leung won the job of Hong Kong's leader, known as the chief executive, after a scandal over a huge, illegal basement brought down his rival.
But illegal structures were later discovered at Leung's house, prompting lawmakers to accuse him of lying and calling for his impeachment. Demonstrators are using the controversy to push for full democracy for the former British colony, which is now a semiautonomous region of China.
Leung's popularity has plunged since he took office because of the scandal over his house and other controversies.
Leung "is not honest. As chief executive, he cannot convince the public that he is a leader with credibility," said Sandy Chung, a clerk. "I don't want Hong Kong to be led by a person without credibility."
Another protester, designer Calvin Tse, said he was upset that he didn't have a say in choosing the city's leader.
"We don't even have a vote, he is elected by a small group of people. We cannot use our voting right to express our view no matter how his performance is," Tse said.
Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 and granted Western-style civil liberties not seen on mainland China. Beijing has pledged that Hong Kong's leader can be directly elected by 2017. Full democracy for the legislature, where some representatives are chosen by business groups, is promised for 2020.