Updated: 03/29/2014 00:55 | By Agence France-Presse

Hong Kong democrats start hunger strike

More than a dozen Hong Kong democracy activists, including five lawmakers, said they were starting a hunger strike Friday as they step up their campaign for universal suffrage.

Hong Kong democrats start hunger strike

Protesters stand under a banner as they prepare to go on a hunger strike to call for "true" universal suffrage in Hong Kong on March 28, 2014 - by Philippe Lopez

Some 15 protesters began the action as fears grow that Beijing will row back on promises to implement genuine political reform in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city.  

"True universal suffrage! We will fight to the end!" chanted participants, who had pitched tents to hold their protest in the financial district of Central.

"We believe that the people of Hong Kong have to come out loud and clear in terms of public opinion and social movement to fight for universal suffrage," lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, and organiser of the hunger strike, told AFP. 

China has promised that the city, whose current chief executive is appointed by a pro-Beijing committee, will see a transition to universal suffrage by 2017. 

But it has ruled out demands that voters be allowed to choose which candidates can stand for the top position, an issue which regularly sparks angry protests.

"It's very likely that they want to have a universal suffrage system that is completely under Beijing control," Lee said.

Participants have said they will only consume water and sports drinks during the strike which is expected to last several days. 

On January 1 an estimated 30,000 demonstrators marched through the city to demand a greater say in choosing their future leader.

Democracy activists are planning to occupy central with thousands of protesters this summer to try to force officials to guarantee electoral reform.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule under an agreement with Britain signed in 1997 that grants it semi-autonomous status and enshrines civil liberties not guaranteed in mainland China.

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