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Thousands of protesters in Hong Kong call for leader to resign over scandal of his home, lack of freedoms

| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 10:00 p.m.
Anti-government protesters, surrounded by police officers, block the main road in downtown, on New Year's Day in Hong Kong Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 to call for the resignation of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Several hundred members of a small radical group briefly blocked roads after they were stopped by authorities from marching to Leung's official government residence. At one point, protesters pushed and shoved with police. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG — Tens of thousands of people marched in Hong Kong on the first day of 2013 to call for the city's China-backed leader to step down over allegations that he was untruthful about illegal renovations at his mansion. They also pressed for full democracy.

Police said 26,000 people joined the march at its peak on Tuesday, but organizers said 130,000 took part.

Demonstrators carried banners and chanted slogans urging leader Leung Chun-ying to resign. Some held signs depicting Leung as Pinocchio or with wolf-like fangs — a play on Leung's nickname, the wolf. One demonstrator was dressed as a wolf wearing a Communist Red Guard uniform, a reference to fears over Leung's close ties to China's leaders. Many waved Hong Kong's British colonial-era flag.

In the evening, about 2,500 members of a small radical group briefly blocked several roads when they were stopped by authorities from marching to Leung's official government residence. At one point, protesters pushed and shoved police.

In a sign of the widening political divisions in the semi-autonomous region — 15 years after Britain handed control back to China — thousands of other Hong Kong citizens on Tuesday joined a rival march in support of Leung on the same day by pro-government groups. Organizers of that march said 60,000 people took part, but police put the number at 8,000.

The day of protest comes half a year after Leung took office; he was chosen by a 1,193-member committee of mostly pro-China elites. Leung won the job of Hong Kong's leader, known as the chief executive, after a scandal over a huge, illegal basement brought down his rival.

Illegal structures later were discovered at Leung's house, prompting lawmakers to accuse him of covering it up and calling for his impeachment.

Demonstrators are using the controversy to push for full democracy for Hong Kong.

Leung's popularity has plunged since he took office because of the scandal over his house and other controversies.

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