Police Accused of double standards
Organisers of the annual July 1 anti-government march yesterday denounced police 'double standards' for lax treatment of a rival pro-Beijing group hosting celebrations in Central on the same day.
Police have imposed harsh noise restrictions on the marchers, making shouting slogans and playing music possible causes for arrest if officers consider them too loud.
But it was revealed yesterday that the Hong Kong Celebrations Associations, headed by executive councillor and pro-Beijing unionist Cheng Yiu-tong, would be allowed to hold a carnival in Central on Friday without any noise restrictions.
'It is crystal clear that the police are applying double standards,' said Gary Fan Kwok-wai, convenor of the march organiser the Civil Human Rights Front. 'Those who are friendly to the government can do whatever they like, while we who are more critical of [Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen] are subject to unreasonable restrictions.'
The carnival will be held in Chater Garden and Statue Square to mark the 14th anniversary of the handover. It will feature dancing, singing and drum performances with the participation of more than 1,000 students from 50 schools. The 31/2-hour show, which starts at 9.30am, is expected to attract 10,000 people.
Cheng said yesterday that his association had obtained the go-ahead from the police with no noise controls.
He declined to comment on the suggestion that his group had been given preferential treatment because of its political background, but said: 'Our carnival, unlike the protest march, is not located in a densely populated residential area. But overall, the government has been very supportive of our work and thus the preparation work for our carnival has been going very well indeed.'
Police have warned organisers of the march from Victoria Park to government headquarters in Central that it could be considered a breach of the force's consent if protesters make too much noise. It could also be held responsible if people do not disperse immediately after reaching the procession's destination or if unlicensed fund-raising activities take place during the march.
The Civil Human Rights Front has lodged an appeal to the Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions, which is expected to deliver a ruling today after a hearing.
Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong yesterday dismissed suggestions that the police had been targeting the front, saying the restrictions on the organisers were more or less the same as those for the marches in previous years.
A police spokesman yesterday declined to comment on the 'double standards' allegation.
Fan admitted similar conditions were imposed in previous years but the front decided to appeal this time after sensing a more hardline approach by police against protesters in recent months.
In May, police interrupted a dance performance during a gay rights rally, saying the organisers did not have a public entertainment licence.
In March, they forcibly evicted activists and arrested 113 of them for staging a sit-in after an anti-budget protest. Police were also fiercely criticised for crowd-control measures during the June 4 vigil, which activists said were an attempt to discourage participation.
More than 50,000 people are expected at Friday's protest march, at which one of the demands will be for Tsang to step down.