'Occupy Central' protest halts cancer fund-raiser
HSBC has cancelled an annual charity fair and parade scheduled for Saturday because of safety and security issues created by the Occupy Central protesters camped below the bank's headquarters.
The Halloween Charity Parade was organised to raise support for the Hong Kong Cancer Fund.
The parade was to have set off from a makeshift fairground in the public space beneath the bank where the Occupy Central demonstrators have been staying since October 15. Organisers decided late last week to cancel the parade when they learned the protesters would still be there.
They could not find another space for the event at such short notice, they said. Last year more than 1,500 people were involved and the event raised around HK$1.6 million for the cancer fund.
HSBC spokesman Gareth Hewett said the bank has monitored the Occupy Central campaign and was working with the police. But it did not speak directly to the campaign participants about the parade.
Police said yesterday they had never asked the demonstrators to leave the public space.
Jaco Chow Nok-hang, an Occupy Central participant, confirmed that HSBC did not approach the group to discuss alternatives and possible options for Saturday's event.
He said that if officials had approached the group directly, possible alternatives could have been found through discussion and voting.
'Our decision - made through voting - was not to move. But if they had come to talk with us, we could have worked something out. For example, we could have held off on our activities until [their parade] was over, or we could have taken down our banners for the duration of the event,' said Chow.
Hewett said HSBC respects 'the rights of all individuals to express their views as part of a democratic society' but that, as organisers, the bank had to 'consider the health and safety risks posed to all parties'.
A spokeswoman with the Hong Kong Cancer Fund, the beneficiary of the parade, said: '[The cancellation] is rather disappointing, but we have already received donations from people who were going to take part.'
Donations will go towards two projects - the oncology ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital's Cancer Patient Resources Centre, and the CancerLink Centre in Tin Shui Wai.
No other fund-raising schemes are being planned, the spokeswoman said. Occupy Central was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street campaign in New York City, which spread to cities around the world.
Protesters in London caused St Paul's Cathedral to be closed to the public for the first time since the second world war.
In Hong Kong, protesters erected tents in the public space under the HSBC headquarters in Central.
Protesters have united under an anti-capitalist agenda and have been experimenting with 'self-governing' their tented community.
The estimated number of cities worldwide where Occupy Wall Street protests have been held, according to the group's website