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Hong Kong Protesters Renew Push For Electoral Reform

Supporters of free and open elections in Hong Kong march through the city streets ahead of a crucial vote on political reform in the city's Legislative Council.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong to resume protests against Beijing's hand-picked pool of candidates for the territory's next chief executive – urging lawmakers to approve a reform that would instead allow direct elections.

However, The South China Morning Post says turnout was estimated by organizers at 3,500, well short of 50,000 that activists had hoped for. The protesters have vowed nightly vigils until the vote on the reform — which is widely expected to fail — takes place on June 17 or 18.

NPR's Frank Langfitt says: "Beijing has proposed changing the system so that Hong Kongers for the first time can directly elect their next leader. But voters will only be able to choose from three nominees, who have been vetted by the Communist Party. Pro-democracy activists see this as a sham."

The English-language SCMP reports: "Protesters gathered in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, urging pan-democratic lawmakers to vote down the government proposal, which provides for a 1,200-member nominating committee to choose two or three candidates to be put forward to a popular vote. Candidates will have to secure the backing of more than half of nominating committee members."

Beginning last September, pro-democracy activists made headlines worldwide when they came out by the tens of thousands to protest the same issue. Umbrellas, used by protesters to ward off tear gas canisters, became a symbol of the movement.

Initially, many people in Hong Kong supported the protesters, but as the demonstrations wore on – blocking major thoroughfares and business districts – sympathy for the cause waned and the government in the territory was able to use the discontent against the activists.

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