A pro-democracy activist outside the Chief Executive's office in Hong Kong during the height of pro-democracy protests in October 2014. An annual rally on July 1 was attended by tens of thousands of activists. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
HONG KONG, July 1 (UPI) -- A pro-democracy rally that marked the 18th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover was attended by tens of thousands of people who took issue with China's meddling with domestic politics.
The march for democracy on Wednesday witnessed a significantly lower turnout than 2014, when 500,000 appeared to voice their opposition to Beijing's polices, the BBC reported.
The march's lower attendance has raised questions over public sentiment over the protests, which some regard as a failure after China has refused to make concessions to its special administrative region.
In June, Hong Kong parliament members rejected Beijing's electoral reform plan that could limit universal suffrage. But China's state news agency, Xinhua, said the Hong Kong lawmakers' veto was inconsequential.
Freedom of speech needs to grow, said protesters, and universal suffrage is in peril.
Beijing's proposed reforms, according to the activists, were presenting Hong Kong with nothing short of a "fake democracy."
South Korean news agency Yonhap reported some activists compared the fake democracy in Hong Kong with the political climate in North Korea.
The isolated state claims each citizen is entitled to one vote, but in practice authoritarianism take precedence over dissent.
Likewise, China does not allow Hong Kong to elect its own leaders, an activist with the surname Ho told South Korea press.
A North Korean human rights campaigner said Hong Kong needs to pay attention to the stories of North Korean defectors before the city becomes more like China and North Korea in its governance.