The Occupy Central movement is likely to be the top fundraiser among all the political causes championed to protesters at the July 1 rally, an initial tally shows.
One political scientist says the outcome signals a promising way forward for the civil disobedience campaign that is striving for democracy in the city.
The total collection by various pan-democratic groups during the Monday march added up to at least HK$3 million, a third more than last year, according to a preliminary count.
All but the radical People Power recorded more donations than last year, despite a similar turnout. But topping the list was the new Occupy Central campaign, which raked in about HK$800,000. Close to the top, with HK$720,000 raised, was Scholarism, the student group which opposed the government's plan to introduce national education.
Occupy Central hopes to gather 10,000 protesters to block roads in Central in July next year to push for universal suffrage. The organisers estimate that the action cost about HK$10million.
"The donations do give me some confidence," said one of the movement's key movers, University of Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting yesterday. "But even if the public is supportive of the campaign, it does not mean more people will come forward to make a move in civil disobedience."
Tai and the other two core organisers, Dr Chan Kin-man and the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, manned their booth all on Monday afternoon to rally support.
Tai said the money would help recover the cost of the first "Deliberation Day", held last month to discuss Occupy Central, and to pay for the second D-Day, scheduled for October.
He felt Monday's rally was peaceful. "It seems when everyone is able to see hope ahead, no one is going to clash with the police. [Clashes happen only] when people cannot see any hope of changing the system."
Given the similar turnout to last year's, the rise in donations should set off alarm bells for the government as it showed opposition parties were making headway, Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said. "The donors [to Occupy Central] might not necessarily be the ones who would take pledges to participate in the civil disobedience campaign," he said. "But they might form a solid backing to the plan and make it more likely to happen."
Other major pan-democratic groups recorded significant increases in donations.
The League of Social Democrats, which was embroiled in a string of legal battles, received HK$690,000, up from HK$400,000 last year.
It was followed by the Civic Party, which took in HK$535,000, and the Democratic Party, with HK$350,000. The Labour Party collected HK$230,000.
People Power was dealt another blow after its leadership reshuffle, as collections fell from HK$800,000 to HK$320,000. Party lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip conceded that the departure of fellow legislator Wong Yuk-man was a factor.
The march organiser the Civil Human Rights Front has not yet announced its collections.