July 1 march

Meanwhile ... the other July 1

Thousands of Hongkongers attend events exulting the 16th anniversary of the handover and applaud speeches criticising the pan-democrats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 4:46am

While thousands of Hongkongers took to the streets to fight for democracy, the 16th anniversary of the handover was being celebrated by thousands of others, according to event organisers.

Cheng Yiu-tong, chairman of the Hong Kong Celebrations Association, said about 225,000 people attended its celebrations held in 37 venues in all 18 districts, including a two-hour ceremony in Tamar Park near the government headquarters.

"It shows that [our events] fit the demand and need of the people taking part," Cheng said.

In Tamar Park, he led the mainly middle-aged crowd - estimated to number 1,500 by police - as they chanted slogans such as, "C. Y., we support you."

Asked if the celebrations were aimed at diverting Hongkongers from joining the annual democracy march, Cheng said: "Hong Kong is a diverse society ... Some like to march; some like to celebrate the handover.

"I'm just providing a platform ... for the public to choose for themselves."

Pro-government group Voice of Loving Hong Kong held a "carnival" on the piazza outside the Cultural Centre on Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. There were speeches criticising the city's pan-democrats and some singing and dancing performances under squally showers.

The group's convenor, Patrick Ko Tat-pun, said about 1,200 people had attended. A Post reporter at the carnival estimated crowd numbers at about half that figure. Again, most of those who turned up were middle-aged or elderly.

The group is aiming to draw 10,000 people to counter Occupy Central's planned civil disobedience in the central business district next July, and yesterday's crowd made a mass pledge to join in. The Occupy movement says it will stage its protest if the government fails to come up with an acceptable plan by then for universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017.

Retiree Ho Shu-ying said she would join the anti-Occupy-Central movement even though she had not participated in any political rally before.

"The pan-democrats oppose the government just because they want to oppose. Occupy Central will mess up Hong Kong," she said.

Yesterday morning, about 2,500 people - Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, his top officials, legislative and executive councillors, key figures from the central government's liaison office, foreign diplomats and members of the public - attended a flag-raising ceremony at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai. Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa was among the attendees, but his successor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was absent.

Lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and some 20 League of Social Democrats supporters staged a protest on the sidelines calling for Leung to resign.

Tsang's absence - despite having been sent an invitation - caught the public's attention but a little research showed that Tung had only shown up twice - in 2011 and 2012 - since his sudden resignation in 2005.

A source close to Tsang explained the former chief executive had frequently spent time out of town since leaving office.

An open day at the People's Liberation Army Stonecutters Island naval base was also a big draw, with two new naval corvettes taking pride of place.

Additional reporting by Olga Wong