Tens of thousands of residents gather to march in the annual pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong on July 1. Pic: AP.

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong has sent a report to Beijing recommending changes to allow for greater democracy in the southern Chinese city, kicking off a process that will ultimately let residents elect their leader for the first time in 2017.

Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Leung Chun-ying, said in his report Tuesday that consultations with nearly 125,000 people and groups in the city found they were “eager” for universal suffrage.

The report, however, downplayed widespread calls for the public to nominate candidates free of China’s vetting and is sure to add to discontent among residents already upset over Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony.

On July 1, an estimated half a million people took to Hong Kong’s streets in a rally to press for full democracy.

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