Thousands in Hong Kong protest Beijing's interference

HONG KONG Sun Apr 1, 2012 7:57am EDT

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Thousands of protestors marched to the mainland Chinese government's liaison office in Hong Kong on Sunday, demanding universal suffrage and protesting against Beijing's perceived interference in the territory's recent chief executive election.

Witnesses said police used pepper spray to disperse protestors gathered outside the liaison office after warning them not to break beyond barriers.

The city's seven million people have no say in who becomes their chief executive. Leung Chun-yin, who will take over from incumbent Donald Tsang on July 1, was chosen by an election committee of about 1,200 Hong Kong notables on March 25.

Leung beat a scandal-tainted rival, tycoon and former bureaucrat Henry Tang after a fraught campaign which will intensify pressure on China to keeps its promise to allow Hong Kong a direct leadership election in 2017.

Dubbed the "wolf" for what some describe as his steely edge, the tall, trim Leung has been labeled a secret Communist Party cadre -- an accusation he denies -- by some of staunchly capitalist Hong Kong's media and politicians.

Organizers estimated 15,000 people turned up, but police estimated the turnout peaked at 5,300 in what was the latest protest against the way the territory's chief is elected.

"Of course we must continue to use these methods of public protest to express our demand. This is the only way, you can see it from Wukan (in mainland China), whose residents were able to get their voice heard only through persistent action and protest," said Pasha Chan, a party activist with the Socialist Front, who was at Sunday's march.

(Reporting by Sisi Tang, Venus Wu and Tyrone Siu; Writing by Clement Tan; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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