Handover parade expected to draw 20,000

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 12:00am

About 20,000 people will take to the streets on July 1 to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the handover, while 50,000 are expected to join a protest march on the same day.

The celebratory parade, organised by 19 pro-Beijing groups, will start at 10.30am at the Hong Kong Stadium and finish at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai at 2pm - an hour before the protest march to the Central Government Offices kicks off in Victoria Park.

Organising committee chairman Cheng Yiu-tong yesterday dismissed claims the parade was aimed at diverting attention away from the pro-democracy rally, saying celebrations were held every year in different formats.

'We are not aiming at any organisations. Hong Kong is a diverse society and there are many voices. I emphasise that we are not opposing each other. We have to respect each other's demands,' Mr Cheng said, pointing out that the parade had been planned since as early as January.

'July 1 is a day worth celebrating. We are providing a channel for people to express their feelings about the handover,' he said.

Non-political organisations were welcome to take part in the parade as long as they shared the aim of building a harmonious society and promoting economic development, Mr Cheng added.

About 18,000 people taking part in the protest march will stage a mock referendum aimed at renewing pressure on the government and Beijing to reconsider allowing universal suffrage in the elections for the chief executive in 2007 and the entire legislature in 2008.

The Civil Human Rights Front organiser expects more than 50,000 people to turn out.