Falun Gong members meditate during a demonstration outside the Chinese government’s local liaison office in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: Democracy activists scuffled with police in Hong Kong yesterday as they sought to air their grievances with Chinese President Hu Jintao, visiting the former British colony on the 10th anniversary of its return to China.

Several dozen protesters pushed and shouted at police in heavy rain as they tried to advance on Hu’s hotel to hand in a petition demanding democracy, protection of human rights and atonement from Beijing for the June 4, 1989 crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that saw hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people killed by troops.

Shouting slogans and carrying banners, the protesters marched to within a few blocks of the hotel but were blocked by more than 100 police officers.

Growing demand

Hu has avoided addressing the issue of democratic reforms – and how the city might reconcile growing calls by the public and a vocal pro-democracy camp for direct elections.

Hong Kong’s post-handover constitution says universal suffrage is the ultimate goal, but is vague on a timetable, giving Beijing scope to dictate the pace of reform. Beijing’s parliament has ruled out direct elections until at least 2012.

The normally buttoned-down leader has been on a charm offensive to try to win over Hong Kong’s citizens and stir up patriotism.

Earlier in the day, Hu donned a green "Mao suit" and inspected army troops. A ceremony was also held to mark the gift of two "handover pandas" to Hong Kong.

Hu dispensed with suit and tie on Friday, meeting families in their homes and presenting them with gifts.


Chinese leader Hu Jintao inspects troops of the People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong