Protesters March in Hong Kong

Protesters March in Hong KongProtesters March in Hong Kong

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong protesters marched for full democracy on Wednesday and called on the Chinese-controlled city’s leader to resign, just weeks after lawmakers voted down an electoral reform package backed by China.

The turnout, estimated by organizers at around 50,000, was one of the lowest for the march marking the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Last year’s protest drew more than half a million people when debate over the city’s democratic reforms was near fever pitch, Reuters reported.

“I want real universal suffrage,” the crowds chanted, with many holding yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the “Umbrella Movement” last year when protesters blocked major roads to pressure Beijing to allow direct elections in 2017.

Some heckling and heated exchanges broke out between the democracy activists and pro-Beijing groups, with police separating the two sides.

The march comes nearly two weeks after Hong Kong’s legislature vetoed a Beijing-sanctioned electoral reform proposal that had triggered the sometimes violent protests, presenting Beijing with one of its most serious challenges in years.

The electoral blueprint would have allowed a direct vote for Hong Kong’s next leader in 2017, but only from among prescreened, pro-Beijing candidates, a proposal decried as “fake” democracy by protesters.