Rally organisers ask police to lay down ground rules
Organisers of the annual July 1 protest march have accused the police of not laying down clear ground rules to avoid confrontation and chaos.
The rally's organisers met police yesterday and asked for specific conditions in which officers would take action against protesters.
'We asked under what circumstances the police would take action - if protesters used chalk to write slogans on the footpath, for example - and all they said was they would take action depending on the situation,' said Gary Fan Kwok-wai of the Civil Human Rights Front, adding police addressed concerns raised during the meeting only in general terms.
'If participants feel their freedom is suppressed in the rally, they might have a strong reaction. We don't want this to happen ... it's better for them to discuss plans with us now than to deal with individual groups at the scene,' he said.
But police said last night that officers respected the public's right to express their views and to assemble. They plan to communicate with rally organisers to try to understand their needs and provide help.
This year, protesters plan to call on Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to step down, the first time such a demand will have been made since 2003. They also plan to call for universal suffrage in 2012 and to voice their opposition against powerful developers, Fan said.
He said he hoped the police would trust volunteers helping with the rally to keep order by deploying fewer officers. The organisers also hope for more communication with frontline police during the rally.
Fan would not say how many people the organisers expected at the rally this year, but the estimate given police was about 50,000. Organisers will meet police again in mid-June.
The concerns stem from a rally this month in which police broke up gay and lesbian activists who were dancing, telling them they couldn't do so at a rally as they didn't have a public entertainment licence.
There was also a high-profile police investigation into graffiti around the city regarding detained mainland artist Ai Weiwei , and the use of pepper spray in a protest in March after some demonstrators occupied a key road in Central.
At last year's rally, some protesters refused to leave the Central Government Offices and confronted police. Fan said organisers would not stop protesters from doing the same thing this year, adding it was up to them what they did after the march.
'People suffering under the hegemony of developers - like residents of Tsoi Yuen Tsuen and Mei Foo - will lead the march,' Fan said.