Police bosses put protest for press freedom in doubt

Journalists' group told 'senior' force chiefs oppose their choice of venue for Sunday rally

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 3:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 4:45am

Press-freedom campaigners may see a protest outside the Chief Executive's Office on Sunday scuppered after "very senior" police bosses expressed concerns, warned organiser the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

The association received verbal approval from police on Tuesday to protest on a pedestrian walkway outside the office on Tim Wa Avenue, Admiralty, but was notified yesterday morning that more discussion was necessary before a final decision.

Organisers agreed to a site visit to discuss arrangements but police called off the visit without explanation, the association said. The two sides will meet today.

"I really didn't expect this," association committee member Zoe Hung Suet-yee said, adding that the association had been contacted by an officer from the police's community branch, who said "very senior" people had a "different opinion" on the venue than those who had approved it.

She said she had expected co-ordination with police to be as smooth as it was for the association's last march, in 2011.

"I understand it's necessary to discuss all the details, but at the moment even where [the rally] will take place is not confirmed"

The protesters, who will march from Chater Gardens in Central, had planned to protest outside government headquarters. But a pro-Beijing group booked the venue first.

The association appealed to the public to recognise that the "increasing threat" to freedom of speech did not concern only the media. Concerns have been sparked by the sacking of government critic Li Wei-ling by Commercial Radio and the replacement of Chinese-language daily Ming Pao's editor.

"Our consciences compel us to raise the alarm," chairwoman Sham Yee-lan said. "Those in power are attacking the media and their ultimate aim is to create a population kept in ignorance."

In a statement last night, police did not explain why the decision to give the rally the go-ahead had been reversed, but said an alternative arrangement with organisers was possible taking into account traffic, venue size and expected turnout.



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