Pro-democrats ask police to ensure safety for New Year's Day rally
Pro-democrats ready for New Year's Day march, but Pro-Beijing group plans to make ideas heard
Jeffie Lam and Fanny W.Y. Fung
Pan-democrats have called on police to ensure the smooth running of the New Year's Day march after pro-government groups announced their plan to set up street stalls along the route to counter the rally.
The rally, co-organised by pan-democratic groups the Civil Human Rights Front and the Alliance for True Democracy, will leave Victoria Park at 3pm and march to Chater Road Pedestrian Precinct to press for genuine universal suffrage in the 2017 election for the chief executive.
It will be the first large-scale demonstration to be held since the government kicked off its five-month consultation on reform earlier this month.
"We firmly believe that silence does not secure us rights and unprincipled compromises will only sacrifice our dignity," alliance convenor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek said. He called on Hongkongers to join the march.
But pan-democratic supporters will not be the only group on the main road on Hong Kong Island on New Year's Day, as pro-Beijing group Defend Hong Kong Campaign has also pledged to join in the gathering by setting up street stalls along the rally route.
While the Civil Human Rights Front would assign more participants to picket the stalls on Wednesday, its convenor Johnson Yeung Ching-yin said the police were responsible for preventing the rival group from disrupting the rally.
"Participants should also act with restraint towards others' provocation … as they are there to create chaos so as to defame the rally," Yeung said.
Po Chun-chung, founder of the Defend Hong Kong Campaign, said at least 10 supporters were expected to hand out pamphlets along the rally's route opposing public nomination - a pan-democrats' idea to grant all voters the right to put forward candidates for the role of chief executive.
The group would not provoke those at the rally, Po said, but he refused to reveal where they would set up the street stalls.
Separately, when asked about the University of Hong Kong public opinion programme's "referendum" on constitutional reform to be held on New Year's Day, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung neither approved of nor dismissed it yesterday. "To a certain extent this is also a way of expressing opinion … We will listen to opinions on constitutional reform expressed in any way," he said.