Group will use courts to beat protest ban

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2012, 12:00am


A campaign group is planning a 500-strong rally outside the central government's liaison office - and says it will fight through the courts to overturn any attempt to block it.

The Civil Human Rights Front wants to rally against police abuse of power on May 6 in what it says is the first application for a large-scale protest outside the liaison office in Connaught Road West.

Icarus Wong Ho-yin, a member of the front's monitoring group on police abuse of power, said the police's handling of recent demonstrations outside the liaison office was unreasonable.

'The government has a responsibility to facilitate protests. It is not only about security concerns, but about the whole community,' he said.

The force has been criticised in recent weeks for using pepper spray against demonstrators protesting outside the liaison office against Beijing's role in the chief executive poll.

Police were also accused of failing to provide facilities for media coverage of demonstrations, as only four television stations were allowed access to a media zone near the office.

Wong expects police not to approve the rally, after which organisers plan to go to the Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions. If that fails, they will seek a judicial review.

Protesters who march on the office are normally ordered to gather outside a block of flats next door. They are then allowed to take turns to walk to the office and chant slogans outside the gate in groups of 10 to 20, in a space limited by a large flower bed.

'I want to protest against the central government, not the residents living in the [flats],' Wong said.

Wong said the group planned to take five large paper tanks and two paper coffins to the rally, objects that would normally be confiscated by the police at protests. He said the group wanted to test the criteria for the police's restrictions on such items.

The front expects between 300 and 500 people to take part and has asked the police to close two lanes of Connaught Road West to traffic so protesters can gather.

He said the application had been submitted to police, but no response had been received.

Protesters have long been angered by heavy police deployment and barricades at the liaison office. The large flower bed, built in 2002, was seen as restricting protests as it reduced the width of the pedestrian road outside the office to just three metres, breaching design guidelines.

A police spokesman said the force respected people's freedom of expression and right to demonstrate. It had received the front's notification and had met representatives once to discuss the rally.

Police would continue to communicate with organisers to ensure the event would be carried out peacefully.

But the spokesman said it was not the first time someone had applied for an assembly outside the liaison office.