Hong Kong protesters mark Christmas Eve with democracy march

Hong Kong protesters mark Christmas Eve with democracy march
Protesters carry a long banner and yellow umbrellas -- the recent symbol of Hong Kong's democracy movement -- during a march to mark Christmas Eve on Dec 24, 2014. The city's democracy campaigners took to the streets in the first large rally after pro-democracy protest camps, which occupied major streets for over two months, were swept away

HONG KONG - Around 100 pro-democracy demonstrators took to Hong Kong's streets on Wednesday to mark Christmas Eve, the first sizeable rally since the last of the protest camps which blocked main roads was cleared last week.

Protesters, holding metres-long banners that read "We want true universal suffrage", walked to the city's government headquarters to signal that the democracy movement was far from over.

"There is one thing that I am certain of and that is the movement had never ended in our hearts," Cheung Wai-man, a 25-year-old founder of an e-commerce company, told AFP.

"No matter how they try to stop us and pressure us, as long as we want to persevere to the end our movement will go on," Cheung said. "We have to tell the government that the people have the power."

Protesters shouted: "Hope lies with the people!" and "The Chinese National People's Congress (NPC) does not represent us" as they walked among double decker buses and other traffic.

Various other protests were planned throughout the evening and into Christmas Day in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, including democracy-themed Christmas carol flash mobs.

Protesters occupied stretches of some main highways for more than two months from September 28, calling for free leadership elections after China's NPC said candidates for chief executive in 2017 must first be vetted by a loyalist committee.

"We have left our occupation zones... we must in the future and on a larger scale, continue to fight for democracy with peaceful means," veteran lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung told the crowd at government headquarters.

The area in Admiralty district was previously surrounded by a protest site which attracted tens of thousands of people on a few occasions.

A 14-old-girl was arrested for criminal damage on Tuesday for chalking graffiti on a wall, known as the "Lennon Wall" during the protests when it was filled with notes containing pro-democracy messages.

She was released on bail.

Pro-democracy campaigners are still making their voices heard despite the clearances. Large banners have appeared on landmarks and pop-up markets sell movement memorabilia, in addition to smaller protest gatherings.

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