Back to the balcony - pan-democrats reprise their Legco protest

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 July, 2007, 12:00am

At midnight 10 years ago, the Legislative Council balcony hosted an emotional protest by democrats vowing to make a comeback to the legislature and calling for universal suffrage.

Last night they returned to the scene, their desire for full democracy yet to be realised.

But the spirits of the pan-democrats' have not been dampened. From the first-floor balcony of the Legco building, where their chants of democracy echoed with the sound of rain and wind, they called on the people of Hong Kong to join today's pro-democracy march.

They counted down the 10 seconds to midnight, then unfurled two banners. One read 'We Want Democracy' in English; the other, in Chinese, said: 'July 1 March for Democracy'.

Recalling that night a decade ago when they were thrown out the legislature, veteran democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming declared: 'We said to the people of Hong Kong: we shall return. And return we did.

'Yet democracy is not any nearer to the goal stipulated in the Basic Law. In fact, it seems more remote than 10 years ago.'

He called on the central government to trust the people of Hong Kong to elect the chief executive and all members of the legislature.

Appealing to the public to join the march today, Mr Lee said: 'Let us walk for democracy. It may rain, but rain cannot stop our aspirations for democracy.'

Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said: 'Today President Hu Jintao said we have to advance democracy. I hope he will honour his words.'

Pictures of the democrats' balcony protest became some of the defining images of the handover. Along with more than 3,000 protesters, Mr Lee - then chairman of the Democratic Party - led a group of ousted democrats and their allies to protest against the inauguration of the provisional legislature and reaffirmed their fight for democracy and the preservation of freedoms in their 'July 1 Declaration'.

Elected in the 1995 Legco elections, the lawmakers had their terms terminated on July 1 amid souring Sino-British relations over political reforms initiated by the last governor, Chris Patten. But the democrats went on to secure a sweeping victory in the 1998 Legco election.

Among the 23 legislators who joined the protest were some new faces, including Civic Party legislators.