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Hong Kong - Scuffles broke out Sunday as thousands marched in support of Hong Kong's scandal-plagued leader Leung Chun-ying, ahead of a mass pro-democracy rally planned for New Year's day.
Around 2 500 people took to the cold and windy streets waving Chinese flags and shouting slogans in favour of Leung, who faces possible impeachment proceedings over illegal alterations to his luxury home.
Leung was chosen to lead the southern Chinese city in March by a pro-Beijing election committee, promising to improve governance and uphold the rule of law in the former British colony of seven million people.
But in his first sixth months in power, Leung has seen his popularity ratings slide and faced a no-confidence vote in the city's legislature.
“We welcome people to support the government and to support the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong citizens,” said Caring Hong Kong Power, the organisers of Sunday's march which began at the city's Victoria Park and ended at the government headquarters.
But scuffles erupted mid way between pro-Leung supporters and anti-government campaigners who arrived carrying colonial Hong Kong flags.
Some participants were also seen punching two reporters from a local television station, according to an AFP photographer.
“I am not comfortable with the increasing power of groups that create turmoil in Hong Kong,” Stan Ngan, a 63-year-old retiree at the event told AFP, referring to increasingly vocal pro-democracy groups.
Pro-democracy campaigners plan to hold a rally on January 1 to demand the resignation of Leung and ask for universal suffrage, with organisers saying they hope to see 100,000 people at the rally.
Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 as a semi-autonomous territory with its own political and legal system that guarantees civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and association.
Leung survived a vote of no confidence in the legislature earlier this month over illegal structures in his home, including a wooden trellis and a glass enclosure.
But he faces a planned impeachment motion scheduled for early January, with 27 pro-democracy lawmakers in the 70-member legislature saying they would support the motion. - Sapa-AFP