Police watchdog deems January 1 rally as ‘smoothest ever’
Sharply low turnout from previous years contributed to remarkably peaceful protest, IPCC secretary general says
The New Year Day pro-democracy march on Wednesday was the smoothest rally that the police watchdog has observed on the spot, its secretary general said.
The Independent Police Complaints Council's Ricky Chu Man-kin said 12 of its members and another 16 secretariat staff went to the rally to observe the proceedings.
“Of all the rallies we have gone down there to make observation, the least number of clashes happened this time. This was the smoothest we have seen. Usually there will be some clashes near Sogo (in Causeway Bay), but this time the situation was very normal,” he said on an RTHK program on Thursday morning.
He said it was partly due to the fact that less people have taken part in the rally when compared to the turnout last year.
Organisers of the march, from Victoria Park to Chater Garden, put the number of participants at 30,000, while police said there were 11,000. Last year, organiser the Civil Human Rights Front put the turnout for the January 1 march at 130,000, while police said there were 26,000 marchers.
Chu said the council has not received any complaints as of Thursday morning.
“This is a good beginning for this year,” he added.
Lau Siu-kai, a former head of the government’s Central Policy Unit think tank, has said that the lower turnout for the march indicated that some issues sparking discontent had faded from view.
The front’s convenor, Yeung Ching-yin, has said the turnout was lower than expected, but he believed it "illustrated that some people think marching is not enough to express anger”.
There were minor scuffles during the protest, including when members of education lobby Scholarism had a 15-minute stand-off with police officers over the group’s street booths.
In Central, at least four protesters, carrying bags of tomatoes they intended to throw, were hauled away by police after they attempted to run out of a barricaded zone.
With additional reporting from Staff Reporters
Watch: Hongkongers march for “genuine” universal suffrage in 2017