Anti-Occupy march organisers pledge to investigate ‘cash for taking part’ claims
Organisers of Sunday's protest against Occupy Central promise to investigate reports that some participants were hired to show up
Jeffie Lam, Tony Cheung and Teddy Ng in Beijing
Organisers of Sunday's march against Occupy Central say they will investigate complaints that people were paid to take part in the protest.
Media reports claimed pro-establishment groups paid some protesters hundreds of dollars each to join the march from Victoria Park to Chater Garden in Central, which the Alliance for Peace and Democracy said attracted 193,000 people. Police put the figure at 111,000.
"It would be better if these people did not show up, as they besmirched the some 190,000 people who came out truly for peace [in Hong Kong]," said the alliance's spokesman, Robert Chow Yung, when asked if the reports would damage the credibility of the march.
Some reports alleged that one group that took part - the General Association of Hong Kong Heyuan Societies - had handed out HK$380 to each marcher.
Chow said he had spoken to the association and learned that one of its subsidiaries "had carried out such acts". The alliance would investigate and consider deducting the 200 people mobilised by the subsidiary from the total turnout, he added.
But it would not for the moment investigate similar claims of payments aimed at the Hong Kong Youth Association.
Cable TV said the Youth Association arranged a bus that picked up dozens of people in Yuen Long, among them the station's undercover reporters, and gave them each a T-shirt and HK$250 on the way to the march.
Chow said the Youth Association questioned the validity of Cable TV's report and said people who received money on the bus were not its members.
Cable TV said it regretted the association's comments. The Youth Association did not respond to the Post's inquiries.
New People's Party leader Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who is an adviser to the Youth Association, said: "It's hard to blame [organisers] for offering incentives to marchers, as some people really live quite far away."
But former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said it would be best if people could express their views without any behind-the-scenes manipulation.
"There are allegations, that are undoubtedly true, that they have to buy people's participation with money [and] with other inducements. You can see for yourself how much of it is spontaneous reaction … and how much of it is not," Chan said, referring to reports that many who marched on Sunday appeared reluctant to answer reporters' questions.
Chow also brushed off suggestions that he had received money for his role, but said the anti-Occupy Central campaign had spent about HK$10 million.
Zou Pingxue , a law professor at Shenzhen University, said the protest represented the views of many Hongkongers who had kept silent in the past.