Student leaders were joined on Monday by hundreds of supporters from various sectors of the community in defiance of police warnings that it was illegal to demonstrate without a permit. They demanded changes to a law governing demonstrations under which seven students have been arrested. Under the Public Order Ordinance, police approval is required for marches of more than 30 people or for an assembly exceeding 50 people. Approval must be sought seven days before the demonstration is to take place. 'We think the Government is exercising the Public Order Ordinance with the intent to suppress those protests and crack down on activists,' Fung Ka-keung, vice- president of the Students' Union at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a representative of the Federation of Students, said. 'We're against the Public Order Ordinance,' he added. 'We request the Government to amend it immediately.' Students' union committee members participating in Monday's protest were 'furious' at last week's arrests, Mr Fung said. 'The average student on campus thinks that it is not right for the Government to arrest those student protesters.' Loh Wai-ming, chairman of the Lingnan University Students' Union, said police had resorted to scare tactics. 'I think what is most alarming is that there is an insidious trend in our society towards a police state,' the second year cultural studies major said. 'The Government is trying to marginalise student movements and public discussions at the grassroots level.' Mr Loh thought the police were attempting to make an example of the student leaders so that in the future no one would dare engage in such activities. 'The whole incident happened in April and if the case has been handled according to normal procedure as they claimed, then why didn't the police arrest them right after that?' he asked. 'Before the demonstration on Monday we did notify the police of what we are going to do. But we were not asking for their permission whatsoever, and all of us who were there knew that we might face criminal charges. We are prepared for that and we won't back down,' Mr Loh said. Lam Ho-ming, 21, president of the Students' Union at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), said the decision to arrest student leaders before National Day had been 'politically motivated'. 'The Government gives us a feeling that they want to place further restrictions on freedom,' he said. But the mood on campus had remained calm, Mr Lam said. 'PolyU students were not on the front line of the demonstration, but it doesn't mean that we are not concerned about the issue. 'It is only because our students were not arrested and the union disagreed with the way the Federation of Students handled things,' he said. Although Mr Lam was critical of Monday's demonstration, he strongly supported the call to amend the Public Order Ordinance. 'We think there are other ways to express our opinion and simply yelling slogans asking (Chief Executive) Tung Chee-hwa to step down cannot solve the problem,' Mr Lam said. A student at Hong Kong Baptist University agreed. According to Anita Fong Wing- yi, a member of the university's Students' Union, the issue had not been discussed. Speaking as an individual and not as a spokesman for the students' union, she said the students who were arrested last week got what they deserved. By ignoring the police warning, they had set a dangerous example of civil disobedience, Ms Fong said. 'Even though this incident hasn't come up as a topic for discussion in the Students' Union, I personally believe that what these students did was a sheer violation of law and order,' she said. 'I think there must have been alternatives to what they did to express their grievances against the Government. For whatever reason, they shouldn't have resorted to violence or a direct confrontation with our law enforcement officers.' While respecting the students' right to freedom of speech and assembly, Ms Fong did not think that meant they could simply break the law. 'It is hard to imagine what would happen if other people were to follow suit,' she said. Kaxton Siu Yu-kwan, 20, a second year student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (UST), was one of the students arrested last week. He said that they were clear about what they were doing at the time they decided to protest. 'We got a limited [number of] people to organise the action, but we . . . still insisted [on doing it] because we wanted to act as the third party and pressure group to arouse public concern,' Mr Siu said. 'Nowadays, university students not only need to study hard, they should also care about society.' The Federation of Students would organise a signature collection campaign in university campuses urging amendments to the ordinance, Mr Fung said. The federation would also seek the assistance of community organisations in this regard, he added. Representatives of the students' unions at HKU, City University and UST could not be reached for comment.