Pan-democrats have vowed to defy a surprise police ban on roadside political stalls during a march against Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on New Year's Day in which they hope to draw thousands of protesters.
The lawmakers, who yesterday demanded Leung's resignation, said without elaboration that they would adopt a policy of civil disobedience if the police deprived them of their rights.
Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said the ban on stalls announced earlier this month reflected poorly on the state of democracy. "We used to set up stalls as a propaganda [aid] to pass our political message across the city," he said. "The police ban … will be a sign of democratic regression."
Officials have ruled that such stalls on January 1 would cause a "serious obstruction".
The pan-democrats have called on Hongkongers to wear black for the march, which will begin at 2.30pm in Victoria Park and finish at the government headquarters in Admiralty.
"Since Leung lacks credibility and integrity, he is incapable and unqualified to lead Hong Kong," said Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing.
Citing a file released by WikiLeaks in 2009, Lau said Central Policy unit head Shiu Sin-por had told the US consulate that only a protest of at least 100,000 people could attract the central government's attention.
Meanwhile, police yesterday clarified a statement made last month, saying they would consult district councils only about diverting traffic for major protest marches, and not on whether to approve such demonstrations.
Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung had last month said the force would consult district councils about the impact of mass marches "to strike a better balance between protesters and residents".
But yesterday's clarification did little to ease rally organisers' fears that the new arrangement would be used to curb their freedom of assembly. "Police may request that the march follow a route that detours around crowded areas, so that fewer people can see or join it," said activist Daisy Chan Sin-ying, a member of the Civil Human Rights Front organising the January 1 rally.
In the legislature, 27 pan-democratic lawmakers said they would support a motion of impeachment against the chief executive, initiated by lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung on January 9.