July 1 march
The annual July 1 march in Hong Kong marks the handover of the British colony to Beijing that took place in 1997. The peaceful demonstration has become a rallying point for pro-democracy activists. The march captured the public's attention in 2003, when half a million marched, angered by proposed national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law.
'No need' to open lanes for July 1 marchers
Police say they had contingency plans for the July 1 protest but they weren't required
Police had a "contingency plan" to open all lanes on Hennessy Road to the July 1 protesters, but the responsible officer on site did not feel the need to do so, the police watchdog heard yesterday.
It was the latest development in the dispute between police and march organiser the Civil Human Rights Front, which has accused police of breaking an agreement to open a barricade near the Sogo department store to allow in more protesters if necessary. Police remained insistent yesterday that there was no such agreement but that it had contingency plans to open part of the eastbound lanes on Hennessy Road, or even adjacent Lockhart Road if those lanes were full.
"These are contingency plans and the decision should be made by the acting officer on site," said Chief Superintendent Evelyn Lam Man-sai at a hearing of the Independent Police Complaints Council. "They did not feel there was a need to make such a decision … on the day," said Lam, of the police complaints and internal investigations branch.
She was speaking after council member Eric Cheung Tat-ming, who attended the pre-rally meeting, pointed out that such contingency plans had been mentioned. The police received one complaint from the public concerning the arrangement for Causeway Bay, Lam said.
Council chairman Jat Sew-tong had suggested the police consider opening all lanes of Hennessy Road at the start of the rally to avoid congestion.
Scuffles broke out between officers and marchers when some tried to cross into the eastbound lane of Hennessy Road near Sogo to join the pro-democracy march there, rather than at the starting point in Victoria Park. Lam said the barricade was necessary to stop protesters from jumping the queue, as requested by the front. "The organiser asked us to maintain order and stop people from joining the queue in the middle. This is why police were helping to direct people to Victoria Park."
Cheung said more information should have been provided to people accustomed to joining the queue there in previous years.
Meanwhile, 1,068 complaints against police were lodged this year - 70 fewer than a year ago.