Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in Hong Kong against a government decision to disqualify candidates advocating territorial independence ahead of the legislative elections in September.
Police said up to 760 people participated in the Sunday protest. Organizers claimed more than 1,000 supporters marched through main streets against the disqualification of five candidates from running in the upcoming Legislative Council elections.
Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, a protest organizer of Civil Human Rights Front, criticized the vetting process for electoral candidates, saying, "I hope that people are aware of the political vetting. It is something that every Hongkonger should be concerned about because damage has been done to the rule of law as well as fairness in elections."
The demonstrators chanted slogans while holding banners reading, "No political vetting!" "Give me back fair elections!" and "Defend freedom of speech."
Five candidates who advocate a split from China have been banned from standing in the September 4 vote. The idea of independence is dismissed as illegal by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities.
The latest protest rally comes as critics complain about Beijing’s growing influence in the city.
Some new parties have emerged campaigning for a breakaway in the Special Administrative Region of China.
In 2014, tens of thousands of protesters gathered on a regular basis for nearly 80 days to urge political reforms in Hong Kong and free leadership vote. Protests in Hong Kong began in September 2014, after China said voters had to choose the region’s next chief executive in 2017 from a list of two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee.
Hong Kong has enjoyed substantial political autonomy since 1997, when it returned to China after about a century of British colonial rule.