Thousands march against Hong Kong leader CY Leung

Jackie Hung, protest organiser:"We want universal suffrage...we have been asking for more than 20 years"

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Thousands of people in Hong Kong have taken to the streets on the first day of the new year to call for the city's chief executive to resign.

They say CY Leung is not to be trusted following claims he lied about illegal structures at his home, a politically sensitive issue in the city.

They are also calling for the right to be able to vote for their leader, who is currently selected by a small committee loyal to Beijing.

Pro-Leung rallies were also held.

Organisers of those demonstrations said 60,000 people took part, although the police put the number at 8,500.

Those behind the anti-Leung marches claimed they attracted at least 130,000 protesters, although the police said the number was more like 26,000.

'Not honest'

Young families pushing children in buggies and the elderly were among those who streamed into Victoria Park in the centre of Hong Kong for one of several anti-government rallies across the territory, the BBC's Jennifer Pak reports.

The protesters carried banners and posters depicting Mr Leung as Pinocchio or a wolf. Some waved the British colonial-era flag.

At one point, traffic came to a halt when hundreds of members of a small radical party staged a sit-in on roads in the centre of the city. Some protesters were seen being taken away by the police.

Mr Leung has been under pressure ever since it emerged that he had not declared illegal building at his house. A similar scandal brought down his rival for the Hong Kong leadership Henry Tang.

The issue of enlarging homes without permission is sensitive in a territory where living space is tight, and many families are forced to live in cramped conditions.

Mr Leung has acknowledged and apologised for the structures, blaming forgetfulness for failing to be fully open about the issue, but he has not persuaded his critics.

"[CY Leung] is not honest," one protester told the Associated Press. "As chief executive he cannot convince the public that he is a leader with credibility. I don't want Hong Kong to be led by a person without credibility."

But the New Year's Day protests were not just directed at Mr Leung. The demonstrators also called for more democracy and the freedom to choose their next leader.

These types of protests are becoming more frequent and getting bigger, and they are a worry to Beijing, our correspondent says.

But the fact that Mr Leung's supporters held similar rallies of their own shows that Hong Kong is a territory more divided than ever, she notes.

Hong Kong was returned to China by Britain in 1997 and has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy from Beijing. But the Chinese leadership has resisted public pressure for full democracy in Hong Kong.

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