Big turnout expected for July 1 democracy rally

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2009, 12:00am

The economic slowdown and a widening wealth gap in Hong Kong will push turnout in the annual July 1 march for democracy to a new high for Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's tenure, organisers of the event predict.

Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions, made the prediction yesterday as the Civil Human Rights Front announced details.

'We are not making use of the bad economy to mobilise people, but people will see that the culprit for the economic problems is an undemocratic government. When there is democracy, grass-roots citizens' lives will be better,' Jackie Hung Ling-yu, of the front's rights committee, said.

The front said the highest turnout for the July 1 rally since Mr Tsang became chief executive was 68,000, in 2007. It said more than 47,000 marched last year, but the police count was 15,500 and a count by the University of Hong Kong gave a range of between 17,000 and 19,000.

For the first time, the front will be joining five pressure groups, including a Christian group and those pushing for a minimum wage law and sexual minority rights.

The number of marchers is expected to be given a further boost as aggrieved investors from the Alliance of Lehman Brothers Victims in Hong Kong have told the organisers that they would participate. Some 48,000 Hongkongers lost most of the HK$20 billion they invested in credit-linked derivatives, such as minibonds, issued or guaranteed by Lehman Brothers when the US investment bank collapsed in September.

Protests against 'mistakes in governance', a 'wide wealth gap', along with demands for a 'return of power to the people' and 'improvement in livelihood' will be the four themes.

The march will also commemorate the 20th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Meanwhile, Danish sculptor and human rights activist Jens Galschiot has made a fresh complaint to the Immigration Department following its refusal to say whether he will be allowed to visit Hong Kong to attend protests marking the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

'I cannot help seeing the letter from the immigration authority as a disguised attempt to prevent me from going to Hong Kong to commemorate the 1989 massacre,' Galschiot said. The letter said the department could not say in advance whether he would be allowed to visit.