Mysterious booking blocks July 1 repeat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 12:00am

Organisers of last year's rally are told Victoria Park is already taken this year

Organisers' efforts to book six football pitches at Victoria Park for a repeat of the July 1 mass rally have been blocked by a mysterious third party.

The Civil Human Rights Front yesterday notified the police of the march - which they estimated would attract about 100,000 people. It will start in Victoria Park, move to Causeway Bay, and finish at government headquarters in Central.

Jackie Hung Ling-yu, convenor of the Front's Democratic Development and People's Livelihood Working Group, said they had tried last month to book the whole park for July 1.

But the group was told by park staff that all six football pitches had been reserved. They were told they could only book the central lawn and the kiosk, Ms Hung said.

Yesterday police phoned staff at Victoria Park to check out the bookings, she said. But it could not be determined who had reserved the pitches.

'They [the staff of the park] don't know who made the reservations, because the person in charge of reservations at that time has resigned,' Ms Hung said.

She said the government had promised to give them an answer three months before the march.

She said they would still try to book the pitches to avoid a repeat of last year's gridlock, when 500,000 protesters took to the streets.

Organisers faced a similar problem last year when the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions booked the football pitches for a carnival on July 1.

The South China Morning Post contacted several pro-Beijing groups yesterday, but none of them said they had reserved the pitches.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department yesterday refused to comment on the mystery. 'It is considered inappropriate to release details of any individual bookings prior to confirmation with any parties concerned,' a spokesman said.

Ms Hung said many people were expected at this year's march as the government had delayed the review on constitutional reform.