Online radio to rally protest
Fanny W. Y. Fung and Simpson Cheung
Firebrand political group People Power are aiming to create a repeat of their late-night July 1 demonstration by using online radio broadcasts to rally people gathering outside Legco today for a protest against a proposed by-election law.
The demonstration will demand the withdrawal of the bill to scrap by-elections for mid-term Legco vacancies and the resignation of constitutional chief Stephen Lam Sui-lung and all pan-democrat lawmakers. Organisers expect the rally to draw between 2,000 to 3,000 supporters.
In the aftermath of the July 1 march, hundreds of protesters brought chaos to Central as they played cat-and-mouse with police and blocked key roads.
While the key 'field commander'' during the July 1 protests was People Power lawmaker Wong Yuk-man, using a megaphone, many in the crowd of demonstrators were tuned in via ear plugs attached to their smartphones, listening to directions broadcast by online radio station Hong Kong Reporter.
'We have been doing this for several years, since I was with the League of Social Democrats. It is nothing new, but is becoming increasingly successful in mobilising people,' said Wong, who also hosts a talk-show on Hong Kong Reporter.
On the day of the annual march, the station also broadcast live from a booth outside Wan Chai's Southorn Playground, attracting 1,000 people. At night, more than 1,000 People Power supporters surprised onlookers with their show of unity in the demonstration. They marched, sat down and chanted as instructed.
With more than 1,000 people blocking traffic in Central, the overnight campaign resulted in the arrest of 231 people - the biggest number of arrests since the anti-World Trade Organisation rallies in 2005.
One of those arrested and detained overnight on July 1, 30-something People Power supporter Jonathan Ho, said many of his fellow demonstrators were unlikely protesters.
'Many in the crowd were middle-class people, guys going with their girlfriends, and housewives. ... they were very peaceful, unlike those with the League of Social Democrats who would clash with police. Many were listeners of Mr Shiu's [Stephen Shiu Yeuk-yuen, founder of Hong Kong Reporter] programmes,' he said.
Ho said his decision to join the rally had been largely influenced by frequently listening to Hong Kong Reporter's current affairs programmes.
'I don't read newspapers. The mainstream media distorts facts. So I turned to online radio... The crowd was not a group of religious followers, but a group of netizens.'
Licensed broadcasters are careful to stay away from political campaigns, as broadcast rules require them to strive for impartiality.
Ahead of today's protest, police issued a statement saying: 'No violence and disorderly behaviour which constitute criminal acts or threaten public safety and public order will be tolerated. Police will deal with such situations in a resolute and professional manner.' Asked if online radio would be monitored, a police spokesman said police would liaise closely with the organisers to ensure that the activities would be conducted in an orderly, safe and smooth manner.
A reporter arrested at the July 1 march has contradicted a suggestion by the police chief that officers who detained her did not know she was there as a journalist.
Kiri Choy, 19, an intern with New Tang Dynasty Television, said she was filming for the New York-based station in Central when protestors blocked the road. 'I never sat with the protestors and did not chant any slogans. All I did that night was to shoot and to observe how others shot.'
Police chief Andy Tsang Wai-hung said police 'had not arrested any journalist working at the scene'.