Storm throws cloud over july 1 events

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2012, 12:00am

Tropical storm Doksuri threatened to ruin events marking the 15th anniversary of the handover, with the government rescheduling programmes for President Hu Jintao and organisers of the annual July 1 march making contingency plans for a postponement in case of bad weather.

Hu's visit to Shek Kong PLA barracks, planned for today, took place yesterday instead, while two celebratory functions were cancelled.

March organiser, the Civil Human Rights Front, meanwhile, submitted an application to the police for a postponement to Monday and was prepared to reschedule the protest to next Sunday if needed.

The front said the event would be postponed if a No 8 typhoon signal or a black rain warning was in force tomorrow - when the storm is predicted to have passed. The No 8 warning was in force by midnight. But front convenor Eric Lai Yan-ho urged people to attend despite the weather if the march went ahead tomorrow.

'It is important for our representatives to rally on July 1 in order to show our discontent against Leung Chun-ying's new government, elected by only 689 people. This strong gesture will show that a civil society will not accept any undemocratic governing of Hong Kong,' he said.

If the rally is postponed, the meeting point will be shifted to the Victoria Park lawn because the soccer pitches, where the rally is planned to start, have been booked for Monday.

Another protest today, organised by the front and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, will occur even if the No 8 warning remained hoisted.

It is understood officers have prepared police stations in Cheung Sha Wan, Kwun Tong, Kwai Chung and Tuen Mun to detain protesters in case of mass arrests.

Strict security is in force at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Wan Chai where Hu is staying, with access blocked from the 30th floor and visitors having to pass through an X-ray check when entering the hotel.

But a South China Morning Post reporter was able to carry a cardboard cutter - the weapon used by the 9/11 plane hijackers in the US - despite going through the security check three times.

A police spokesman said it had implemented a multi-layered security arrangement in the hotel to ensure the personal safety of Hu. He said police had intercepted a Post reporter on the 30th floor yesterday and this showed that the security arrangement was effective.

The hotel was heavily guarded by men in black suits. Restaurants and bars were closed. All rooms were 'fully booked' until Monday, the day after Hu leaves.

The police, who came under fire for tough security and media arrangements during Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's visit last year, were taking no chances. There were two or three police officers every five to 10 metres and heavy barricades in the area around the hotel and the adjacent Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The press area was opposite the hotel entrance but protest zones were far away. Activists repeatedly tried to break through police security to get their voices heard by Hu.

A brief scuffle broke out between police and several League of Social Democrats members when the activists tried to hang protest banners over a footbridge in Tung Chung, along Hu's route from the airport .

The banners, demanding that Beijing face up to the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown and investigate the truth behind the suspicious death of blind activist Li Wang-yang, were torn down by police.

'Hong Kong is said to be a city of free expression which accepts different views,' former league chairman Andrew To Kwan-hang said. 'But now it has become a place where our voice has to be suppressed and no protest can be seen by President Hu.'

The Alliance drove a truck covered with banners behind Hu's convoy wherever it went.


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