Marchers compete with shoppers on July 1 handover anniversary date
Organisers of the annual democracy protest say special deals marking the handover are designed to divert attention from their cause
Shirley Zhao and Tony Cheung
Organisers of activities celebrating the handover anniversary aim to turn July 1 into a shopping day with special deals at 1,000 shops and restaurants - sparking accusations that it is aimed at drawing attention from the annual democracy march.
Businesses including second-hand bag retailer Milan Station, herbal tea specialist Hoi Tin Tong and Macau Koi Kei Bakery, will give discounts of up to 50 per cent or other offers from 2pm to 5pm.
Organisers of the pro-democracy march say the promotion is part of efforts by the government-friendly camp to divert people from their protest. "The pro-establishment camp's motive is very clear," Civil Human Rights Front convenor Jackie Hung Ling-yu said. "They want to get more people shopping so that less people join the march."
And the front's vice-convenor, Icarus Wong Ho-yin, said the efforts showed that Beijing loyalists were worried there would be a large turnout at the July 1 rally.
But Cheng Yiu-tong, executive councillor and chairman of the Hong Kong Celebrations Association, said the aim was simply to let people celebrate the anniversary in their own districts. "We are not against anyone," he said. "We don't care what other people are doing. We just want to organise our own events well."
Cheng said he hoped 100,000 people would join celebrations at 29 venues in all 18 districts, including a two-hour ceremony at Tamar Park near the government headquarters at 12.30pm. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming will attend that event. Last year's celebration was held at one venue, Hong Kong Stadium.
The democracy march, due to start at 2.30pm, will go from Victoria Park to Chater Garden in Central. Hung said the protesters would stay until about 9.30pm.
Hung said she was confident the march would not be affected by celebrations. "Compared to the decade-long fight for universal suffrage by Hong Kong people, a few hours of discounts for shopping is nothing," she said.
Icarus Wong said: "I'm not worried about scuffles breaking out as I have confidence in those who will turn up for the rally."
Lee Yuk-lun, president of the Hong Kong Commerce and Industry Association, said: "People have been viewing July 1 as a demonstration day," he said. "We want to change this and make it a shopping day."
The Civil Human Rights Front said 400,000 marched on July 1 last year. Police put it at 63,000.
Meanwhile, Hongkongers are less gloomy about the chance of achieving genuine universal suffrage with the Occupy Central plan, according to two polls by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme before and after the first of three "deliberation days" on June 9. Some 74 per cent of the 1,000 respondents thought the plan had a slim chance of success before the day. That fell to 69 per cent after it.