Police, organisers tussle over destination for July 1 march

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 12:00am

The Civil Human Rights Front wants to end up at the Central Government Offices

Police and organisers of the July 1 protest march were at loggerheads last night over where it will end.

Police said the organisers had agreed at a meeting yesterday to end the march at Ice House Street.

But the Civil Human Rights Front said it would never agree to this condition because it wanted to march to the Central Government Offices (CGO), where last year's march ended.

The disagreement emerged as police disclosed they would count the marchers at points along the route as well as at the starting point, Victoria Park.

Although the police did not disclose their counting method last year, it was widely assumed it was done only at Victoria Park - leading to a huge crush at the park as people sought to ensure their presence was recorded.

Police said the two sides had agreed to a route from the park via the Causeway Road exit and along Yee Wo Street, Hennessy Road, Queensway and Queen's Road Central. Marchers also used Garden Road last year.

Police said the front had initially proposed that the marchers go along Garden Road and Lower Albert Road to the CGO and down Battery Path before disbanding. But they said that, since closing Garden Road would severely disrupt traffic and Battery Path was too narrow to accommodate the marchers, the two sides had agreed the protest should end at Ice House Street.

This was hotly disputed by the front last night.

'We never agreed to this at the meeting with the police,' a front spokesman said. 'Marching to the CGO is every citizen's right. Citizens have the right to choose where to end their demonstration. In this case, it's at the CGO.'

The two sides will meet again next Monday for further talks.

The front will also meet Victoria Park managers to discuss what to do if insurance cover cannot be obtained for the march.

Front representative Tam Chun-yin urged protesters not to try to squeeze into Victoria Park if it was crowded.

'Participants [last year] thought that since the police were taking the count in Victoria Park they must squeeze into the park to get counted,' he said.

'However, the police have said that this year, the arrangement will be that apart from Victoria Park, they will also be counting people at other places along the route.'

Last year, police counted about 300,000 at the July 1 march, but organisers said there were half a million. The police would not say yesterday whether Hennessy Road would be closed for the march.

'The police have said that it will depend on the number of people in Victoria Park and its vicinity on July 1. If the park is very crowded then they will consider sealing off the road,' Mr Tam said.

Meanwhile, the front has withdrawn its application to Hong Kong Post for the issuing of stamps to commemorate the July 1 protest. The post office had requested the front drop its themes of 'returning power to the people' and 'universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008'.