HONG KONG, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- A protest against Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement drew tens of thousands of people in the central part of the city.
Up to 88,000 people participated in the demonstration Sunday, Hong Kong University said, about half the number that attended a pro-democracy rally on July 1.
Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but with special provisions to endure a level of freedom and autonomy. The Beijing government has not made clear if truly democratic elections in Hong Kong, scheduled for 2017, will be open to all nominees or only to so-called patriotic, pro-Beijing candidates.
The rally Sunday was the final day of a month-long signature campaign by the group Alliance for Peace and Democracy, which claims it has received 1.5 million signatures in support of its pro-Beijing stance and opposition to Occupy Central, the organizing group calling for retention of Hong Kong's democratic elections.
A Beijing report in June noted "the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by Hong Kong is subject to the central government's authorization," a comment which ignited the conflict.