You can march on July 1, just keep the noise down
Playing music, shouting slogans, or doing anything police consider too noisy during the annual July 1 march may be cause for arrest, it was disclosed yesterday.
The Civil Human Rights Front, which is organising Friday's handover-day march from Victoria Park, may also be held responsible if participants do not disperse immediately after reaching the procession's planned destination - the Central Government Offices.
These are some of the stringent conditions imposed by police in approving the march, which is expected to draw at least 50,000 people.
The front yesterday rejected the conditions as absurd. It has lodged an appeal, and the case will be heard tomorrow by the Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions.
'It is a brutal threat to human rights. Playing music is also a way for people to express their views,' front representative Jackie Hung Ling-yu said. She said her group had no right to tell participants where to go or what to do after the march. 'How can we guarantee that people will disperse immediately? People are free to do whatever they want to,' she said.
Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said police could now use noise as an excuse to ban anyone from shouting or demonstrating in public.
Under the Summary Offences Ordinance, it can be an offence for someone without 'lawful authority or excuse' to play 'any musical instrument in any public street'. Offenders are subject to a HK$500 fine or three months' jail. A Noise Control Ordinance also states that anyone who 'plays or operates any musical or other instrument' or 'uses any loudspeaker [or] megaphone' in a public place faces a HK$10,000 fine if the noise 'is a source of annoyance to any person'.
Similar conditions were imposed in previous years, but the front appealed this time after sensing a more hardline approach by police.
In May, police interrupted a dance performance during a gay and lesbian rights rally, saying the organisers did not have a public entertainment licence. In March, they arrested 113 activists who staged a sit-in after an anti-budget protest. Police were also criticised for crowd-control measures during the June 4 vigil, which activists said were an attempt to discourage participation.
A police spokesman said the consent terms were 'basically the same' as last year. He said the force would explain its position at the appeal.