July 1 march

Police, organisers disagree about scuffles in Causeway Bay

Force criticises queue jumpers for causing chaos in Causeway Bay, and deny they agreed with organisers to open road fully to marchers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 July, 2013, 7:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 9:11am

Police last night criticised queue jumpers for trying to join the pro-democracy march in Causeway Bay, and denied breaking an agreement with organisers, after scuffles broke out between officers and protesters.

March organisers once again questioned the authorities' handling of the July 1 pro-democracy demonstration.

We agreed that if the area around Sogo was crowded … the police would open all six lanes … [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying just doesn't want to see a photo of people jamming all six lanes

About an hour into the march at 3.30pm, with protesters making slow progress, some tried to cross into the eastbound lane of Hennessy Road near Sogo. Police said some marchers also tried to join the protest in Causeway Bay, rather than at the starting point in Victoria Park.

The situation quickly escalated. A group of angry protesters carried away a police barricade, and one who was pushed against the barricade fell. Police removed several protesters. "Open the road, police! Open the road," the marchers chanted.

"The police have broken their agreement with us," said Jackie Hung Ling-yu, convenor of march organiser the Civil Human Rights Front.

"We agreed that if the area around Sogo was crowded … the police would open all six lanes … [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying just doesn't want to see a photo of people jamming all six lanes."

Ivan Tan Yi-chun, of youth activist group Scholarism, said the police hoped to force people to leave the march by refusing to open up more lanes. "Fortunately, they failed. No one left, not even in the rain," he said.

The scuffles lasted about 20 minutes. Police eventually opened the eastbound lanes between Sogo and Hysan Place - a distance of about 100 metres - for half an hour.

Deputy Wan Chai district police commander Terrance Mak Chin-ho said officers had warned protesters trying to join the march near Sogo that police were opening only the westbound lanes for the march.

"Their move not only caused traffic congestion, but they could also have hurt themselves and others," he said. "We had hoped the protesters would join the march in an orderly way."

Chief Superintendent Eddie Wong Kwok-wai said the protesters' move was regrettable.

"What they did was against the agreement between the police and organisers, that the ones who got into Victoria Park first would leave first. They jumped the queue, and it was unfair for the people who waited."

He said there would not have been any clashes "if every one had abided by the law".

Independent Police Complaints Council secretary general Ricky Chu Man-kin said the council would take the initiative to learn more from both sides about a complaint from the organisers that police had stopped its members counting the number of marchers for an hour, and that they also barred people from joining the march.

Wong said no police officer would be allowed to obstruct anyone counting marchers. He urged the organisers to provide more information, and said he would take the matter seriously.

Meanwhile, a group calling itself the Anti-C. Y. Alliance staged a hunger strike at Chater Garden to press for Leung to step down. Those taking part pledged to go without food for 50 hours, but People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen hopes to last out for 170 hours.

Chan said it was being staged in remembrance of a similar action in the 1980s against a draft version of the Basic Law that laid the foundation for the current "undemocratic" political system.

Radical lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip, meanwhile, said he regarded the planned Occupy Central civil disobedience movement next year as the only way to get the government into talks.