Protest targets retain their distance

Louis Won

IT had all the elements for a stirring drama.

In one corner, the Governor, civil servants and an array of Hong Kong notables gathered to celebrate China's National Day with a collection of mainland officials.

In the other, a vocal group of committed demonstrators shouting reminders of the June 4 massacre.

As the motorcade of movers and shakers cruised past the Excelsior Hotel, en route to a Xinhua (New China News Agency)-hosted cocktail reception, protesters unfurled banners and screamed slogans.

But despite urgent heckling, the targets of their anger kept the windows rolled tight and waved the chauffeur on.

After Chris Patten and his party drove past the barricades and into the World Trade Centre - where the reception was held - the protesters, without arriving VIPs to vent their outrage on, dashed to the rear of the building to continue their demonstration.

It was there the 30 protesters, including members of the Democracy Forum and the April 5th Action Group, had the tensest confrontation with some of the 250 police present.

Eye-to-eye with police - who blocked protesters' access to the World Trade Centre while maintaining a pathway for pedestrians - the demonstrators called for those attending the reception ''to consider the irony of their position'' compared with the ''suffering masses'' of mainland China.

Waving a black national flag of China and carrying a black lantern emblazoned with the characters ''national grief'', the group demanded the Chinese Government release all political prisoners and stop regarding the 1989 pro-democracy movement as counter-revolutionary.

It also distributed copies of the June 5, 1989, issue of the Wen Wei Pao newspaper to people leaving the World Trade Centre.

But despite the face-off with police, there was no disorder and any possibility of added drama disappeared with the protesters, who dispersed at about 7.45 pm.

Wan Chai District Commander Dick Lee Ming-kwai said he was happy with the way the demonstration went.

''There was no trouble and everyone behaved calmly with the only slight disruption being the chaos when the protesters decided to continue their action at the rear of the building; however that was controlled without any disturbances,'' Mr Lee said.

One of the demonstrators, leading political dissident Lau Shan-ching, said the police were wasting taxpayers' money by deploying so many officers to maintain order.

''We just staged a peaceful demonstration, and the police were stupid to send so many officers here,'' he said.