July 1 march

Chater Road cleared after mass protests and arrests end July 1 march

Chater Road and Jackson Road remain closed to traffic as members of the public are advised to avoid driving to the affected areas, especially in Admiralty and Central

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 1:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 11:36am

Welcome to’s live coverage of Hong Kong’s annual July 1 march. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the city’s streets on Tuesday, while some 4,000 police officers are on patrol. Stay tuned for all the latest developments as they happen.

10am: That concludes up our live blog on the July 1 march and subsequent demonstrations, which has been running now for some 20 hours. Inevitably now there will be much discussion of the dramatic events of yesterday and last night, which will be reported at Goodbye for now!

Watch: Hong Kong police arrest hundreds of demonstrators at Chater Rd sit-in

Wednesday morning media round-up:

Hong Kong's Chinese-language press:

8.27am: No demonstrators left at the site of the Chater Road sit-in. A large police presence remains in place. 

8.18am: A representative of the Hong Kong Federation of Students urges protesters to show support for their fellow activists now detained at the Hong Kong Police College in Wong Chuk Hang - if they are not yet exhausted.

8.09am: Scholarism's Tommy Cheung Sau-yin criticises the chief executive for not stopping to talk to them. He said Leung had become worse at listening to the public as he visited protest members during the group's anti-national education campaign in 2013.

8.01am: Cheers and cries erupt as many of the protesters in Chater Road unlink arms on the stroke of 8am, stand up and are escorted away by police.

8.00am: Police say 196 people in total have been arrested overnight as of 6.30am. They were accused of illegal assembly and obstructing police officers in the due execution of duty. Police said they were still continuing the clearance operation in Chater Road and traffic conditions might be seriously affected.

7.56am: Scholarism's Joshua Wong calls on protesters to pick up rubbish from the protest area in Tamar. He tells protesters to arrive at Wong Chuk Hang police college to support arrested protesters by 10am.

7.52am: Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying arrived at his offices in Tamar. His car does not stop at the gate, where more than 100 protesters have waited overnight for him. They chant "CY Leung step down" as his car passes. Scholarism's Joshua Wong criticises Leung for not listening to the public.

7.49am: A growing number of supporters surround the cordoned off area, cheering on the protestors. Bystanders chanted "Students, add oil!", a local term of support urging them to keep on fighting. Protesters still remain as police approach their fifth hour of arrests and removal of activists.

7.46am: A scuffle breaks out in the Chater Garden rest area as arrests continue to be made. A middle aged man, posing as a reporter, allegedly attacks a protester in the park and is quickly surrounded by a mob. Police are called in and he is taken away in a police van. The protesters claim he was a pro-Beijing supporter and that the police officers were "protecting him". A senior police commander threatened to pepper spray the protesters surrounding the man.

7.37am: Scholarism activists say they intend to move to the Police College in Wong Chuk Hang in a show of support for those protesters arrested overnight and moved there for detention. 

7.22am: The chief executive is about to arrive at his office, where over a hundred demonstrators are demanding to meet him.


7.20am: Protesters boo police warn as they warn activists against hanging a banner on the gate of the Chief Executive's Office. The banner reads: "Stand firm".

7.16am: Bystanders at Chater Garden watching the sit-in protest are outraged over police inaction when someone in the crowd was alleged to have hit fellow bystanders.

6.54am: Tango unit police officers get involved in the action at the protest site on Chater Road.

6.38am: Protesters standing on the pavement, but not involved in the sit-in, berate police over a decision to prevent them from entering Chater Road after they erected steel barricades. The organiser's chief medic also became embroiled in the dispute, saying this could pose a safety problem by restricting access to the protest area.

6.23am Police pick up the pace of arrests on Chater Road with some protesters being lifted out of the area by four officers at a time grabbing a limb each. Protesters remained defiant, however, calling out officers by their badge numbers and accusing them of using excessive force. About 80 to 100 protesters remain at the Chater Road site. Members of the media have been forced to retreat further back as police erect more steel barricades in a bid to hem in the activists.

6.17am: "Let's Occupy Central together!" shout bystanders at the sit-in protest as police look to be preparing to clear the estimated remaining 100 protesters still occupying Chater Road near Chater Garden.

6.06am: Des Voeux Road Central, which was closed on Tuesday night due to the public march, has re-opened to all traffic, transport authorities say. Chater Road and Jackson Road remain closed to traffic and affected bus routes have been diverted. Members of the public are advised to avoid driving to the affected areas around Central and Admiralty.

5.55am: Scholarism's Oscar Lai says if protesters were unable to meet Chief Executive CY Leung by 9am, they will move to Chater Road to support other protesters.

5:41am: Protesters chant "8am!" as the sky brightens and police continue to remove sit-in participants from Chater Road.

5.34am: Some protesters on Chater Road put on goggles and mask their faces with handkerchiefs in anticipation of police using pepper spray.

5.24am: Rows of protesters sitting on the ground with their arms entwined are methodically cleared by police as dawn breaks over Chater Road.

5.17am: A group is praying and singing while police remove their fellow protesters.

5.14am: Chater Road. Some protesters at the front are now lying flat on the ground with arms inter-locked chanting "deliberation" and "stop using violence" with chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

5:11am: Police at Chater Road demand the media step aside and make way for officers to set up a police passage at the protest site.

5.05am: All but silent outside the chief executive's office in Tamar and the surrounding area. As dawn approaches, many protesters are asleep.

5.04am: About 60 police officers close off the eastern end of Chater Road and set up metal barricades, as removal of protestors have been progressing from the western side over the past two hours.

4.59am: A co-organiser of the Occupy Central movement Dr Chan Kin-man said this morning that the rally in Chater Road overnight was peaceful, and the use of force by police was disproportionate.

4.53am: Police seal off the section of Chater Road between the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the Hong Kong Club after announcing all who have occupied the road are under arrest.

4.47am: Protesters not yet cordoned off chant "Defend the students" as police move in to set up a human cordon around them. Some angry protesters berate police officers, calling them "running dogs".

4.41am: Outraged protesters boo police as they start removing protesters again. League of Social Democrats vice-chairman Avery Ng urges sit-in participants to remain seated in case police ambush them.

4:36am: Sit-in protesters stand up and pack themselves closer together as they brace themselves for arrest.

4.32am: Demonstrators approach the stage and police issue verbal warnings again.

4.30am: Four or five lawyers, including University of Hong Kong law academic Benny Tai Yiu-ting - an Occupy Central founder - are now on their way to the Police College in Wong Chuk Hang where arrested protesters have been taken to, said a volunteer of the civil disobedience movement. She says the number would be "sufficient" for the scale of the arrests.

4.29am: Police cordon off another group of protesters sitting on the ground with arms interlinked. "The reason we here is for universal suffrage and the future of our democracy," one protestor shouted, as police officers took a breather to discuss their next move.

4.22am: About 400-500 protesters are said to be still occupying the section of Chater Road between the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the Hong Kong Club.

4.14am: Student activist Cheung Sau-yin, chairman of Chinese University's student union, who has been on megaphone updating protesters on the latest situation, is likely the next activist to be targeted for arrest by police as officers clear protesters from the stage on Chater Road. Sit-in protesters are once again urged to fill every inch of space to make it harder for police to remove anyone.

4.08am: For legal assistance after being arrested, sit-in protesters are given a number to which they should text their full name in Chinese and HKID number before their phones are taken away by police. "Civil disobedience if no civil nomination!" "689 [chief executive Leung Chun-ying] talk to us!," protesters chant as they await arrest.

3.59am: Police coral a group of protesters using metal barricades and begin to carry or drag them out - four officers per person - from the sit-in protest area. Most protesters put up minimal resistance but chant political slogans as they are taken away. One protester, an elderly woman, required a wheelchair.

3.50am: The first coach, fully loaded with protesters removed from the sit-in and accompanying police officers, arrives at the Police College in Wong Chuk Hang. Two other buses filled with protesters on Chater Road are preparing to leave.

3.45am: "Safeguard press freedom!," protesters chant as police once again urge the media to leave.

3.43am: Organisers tell sit-in protest participants to "fill every inch of space" of Chater Road to make it harder for police to remove them.

3.40am: A protester who feels unwell is said to have been prevented from leaving the sit-in site by police. Reporters are urged to go the scene as witnesses.

3.38am: Protest organisers urge people to link arms to make it difficult for police to remove them. The crowd chants: "Persist till the end! Safeguard Hong Kong! Shame on political suppression!"

3:27am: A Chater Road sit-in organiser addresses the crowd using a megaphone after police shut down live broadcasts from the stage. Protest organisers also warn police may soon use water cannon and tear gas to clear Chater Road.

3.22am: Federation of Students leader Alex Chow Yong-kang is removed from the stage by police.

3.20am: "Don't you have your own children?" Angry bystanders confront police over "excessive violence" used in removing protesters from Chater Road.

3.17am: Police stop live video and audio broadcasts from the protester's stage on Chater Road.

3.14am: Bystanders at the sit-in protest swear at police after hearing protest organisers on stage saying police officers had twisted activists' neck while trying to clear the scene.

3.10am: Police cordon off the front of the stage as officers move in to remove protestors. Reporters behind the cordon are refused entry.

3.07am: Lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho Chun-yan were taken away by police as clearance operations began at Chater Road. A third lawmaker, Leung Yiu-chung, was also lead away.

3.03am: A police source confirms that any arrested protesters will be taken to the Hong Kong Police College in Wong Chuk Hang. This is the first time the site has been employed to handle mass arrests.

3.00am: Paul Yip Siu-Fai, a HKU statistician, estimates that 122,000 people joined the July 1 march.

2.58am: Police begin to remove protesters from Chater Road.

2.53am: Protesters and the media told to leave Chater Road in four minutes or face prosecution. 

2.51am: "This is the citizen's warning. You're violating the constitution. You cannot ask the press to leave! The whole world will know how ugly the Hong Kong government and police are", one protest organiser said in response to police warning - drawing cheers from the crowd.

2.49am: The press and media are told to clear within ten minutes the area as students voice out outrage over a move akin to cracking down on press freedom.

2.45am: Students sing Can You Hear the People Sing as police call the sit-in an unauthorised assembly.

Video: Time-lapse video of July 1 marchers leaving Victoria Park

2.42am: Police announce a police cordon will be drawn around the Chater Road area. Police officers move in.

2.37am: Icarus Wong Ho-yin from the police power monitoring group for the July 1 march said as civilians they can do nothing to counter any possible police abuse of power, but his group will ensure legal assistance is readily available to anyone arrested.

Video: Thousands occupy Chater Road and Legco after July 1 march in Hong Kong

2.19am: Police spokesman senior superintendent Patrick Kwok Pak-chung makes a second call for people to leave Chater Road peacefully, before police were forced to take decisive action such as clearing the site, or making arrests to restore order and ensure traffic would resume. Kwok said people remaining at the site were taking part in an illegal assembly.

2.04am: Police have blocked off Ice House Street and have stationed police cars there. Rally organisers demonstrate once again how protesters should protect themselves if police try to remove them from Chater Road.

1.57am: Police reiterate the sit-in would severely affect the traffic tomorrow morning. Alex Chow Yong-kang, secretary-general of HK federation of students, vows to stay until 8am.

1:45am: Dozens of Civic Passion members arrive at Chater Road to join the sit-in. Another 200 or so radical protesters led by Wong Yeung-tat join the crowd shouting, "Down with the Communist Party". They refused to sit down after requests by organisers.

1.42am: Police officially warn protesters at Chater Road that they have breached the law and may be prosecuted if they continue to remain at the scene.

1.37am: Police in Chater Road begin to test their PA systems and audio equipment. Dozens of police officers are now positioned behind steel barricades. Plain clothes officers are patrolling the protest site.

1.34am: Police order demonstrators to leave Chater Road as they were now 1.5 hours past the no-objection agreement signed with the march's organisers. The road the sit-in was being held in was no longer a pedestrian zone, police say.

1:22am: Joshua Wong of Scholarism said that members of his groups plan to "sleep" overnight outside the Chief Executive's Office after the demonstration outside the government's offices in Tamar comes to an end.

1.18am: Addressing protesters on stage in Chater Road, mainland human rights lawyer Teng Biao said: "Conscientious mainlanders stand by Hongkongers' side. History is written by the sweat [of people] and these steps today will be remembered." Action by Occupy Central would be needed to further Hong Kong's democracy and safeguard the freedom of the press, Teng said.

1.15am: Scholarism activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung is talking to police about moving the night protest to a bigger area. Hundreds of protesters are sitting or milling outside of government offices on Tamar Road and on Lung Wo Road. "They're saying we have to remain calm and avoid any violence," said Bowie Lam, a member of the Direct Nomination Alliance.

1.11am: A Xinhua commentary criticises the growing impatience, confrontation and violence among Hong Kong protesters, saying they make visitors to the city uneasy. It said activities challenging the Basic Law had not only destroyed the legal foundations for the city's prosperity and stability, but it is damaging social harmony, the state media agency claimed.

1.05am: Joshua Wong of Scholarism said a member of his group is negotiating with police to see if the police can open up a part of area for the protesters to stage their sit-in. He said that he plans to leave one hour after officers open up that extra space. But at the same time a police officer yelled out that the protestors are engaged in an illegal activities and they can be arrested.

12.54am: At least 30 police officers have been stationed on the footbridge outside Exchange Square, with barricades erected around the podium outside IFC mall and at the pedestrian bridge over Connaught Road Central. Security guards also appear to be on duty inside Exchange Square.

12.39am: Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan said he was prepared to be arrested if necessary. "I am not a lawyer tonight. I am not here to offer legal advice to arrestees. I have the responsibility to stay until the last minutes with the students," Ho said.

12.28am: The rally continues in Central as hundreds of protesters stage an overnight sit-in in on Charter Road. Organisers warn participants about the possible legal consequences of staying behind, and admit they have not received police approval for the sit-in. Protesters are urged not to clash with police and to remain calm if they end up being removed by police.

12.11am: Organisers of the march announced the end of rally at Chater Road, and handed over to the Federation of Students to host their overnight sit-in. In a speech at Chater Road, the former secretary-general of the Federation of Students Chan Shu-fai said it was the federation’s right to exercise their "right to civil disobedience".

Watch: Hong Kong's July 1 protests marking the handover to China see massive turnout

11.55pm: The police watchdog said police should review whether they could better handle the flow of people in future rallies, if there was such a large crowd. The Independent Police Complaints Council’s new chairman Larry Kwok Lam-Kwong said it could have been helpful for marchers to proceed more quickly if the police had opened up six lanes of traffic for marchers in Causeway Bay.

11.45pm: The University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme puts the turnout for the march at between 154,000 and 172,000 people. Police said 92,000 started the march in Victoria Park by 7.30pm and 98,600 participarted at its peak. The official figures were the highest since 2004.

11.28pm: Johnson Yeung Ching-yin, convenor of the Front, urged the central and SAR governments to listen to Hongkongers after organisers estimated 510,000 people joined the July 1 march and almost 800,000 voted in Occupy Central's unofficial referendum. "They must pay the political price if they ignore our calls," he said.

Meanwhile the Federation of Students makes a plea for food and water donations as they are running short on supplies for the night. Protestors leaving the area hand them bottled drinks and bags of snacks, while thanking them for their help.

11.16pm: Organisers say the number of people who took part in the July 1 march was 510,000. The figure is in stark contrast to the 'official' police tally of just 92,000.

Watch: Protestors gather at Chief Executive's Office to continue protest

11.05pm: Dozens of protesters reach the Chief Executive's office in Tamar, where scores of police are manning barriers.

Occupy Central Benny Tai Yiu-ting said he understood many people would be staying out for the night and that, having been a student leader himself many years ago, he "felt a sense of pride".

"I am confident all student and citizens will uphold a non-violent spirit. Before the work day starts I am sure the protesters will leave," he said, adding that there was no need for police to "clear the area and use any violence". "If police try to clear area, try to use violence on students, I can assure you that you will bear even more serious political consequences," he warned.

10.52pm: Some 50 journalists are waiting outside the Chief Executive's Office in Tamar. Members of student group Scholarism are expected to arrive any time to stage a sit-in. The group has not obtained a letter of no objection from the police.

Separately a SCMP reporter said it took more than three-and-a-half hours to complete the full July 1 march from Victoria Park to the final destination in Central, walking along at the pace of the crowd without taking any short cuts.

10.39pm: Protesters in Chater Road applaud as members of student-led group Scholarism set off for the Chief Executive office in Tamar, where they are planning an 'occupy' protest. 

10.34pm: And still the march goes on! The tail of the original July 1 demonstration is approaching Admiralty, more than seven hours after the first marchers set off from Victoria Park.

10.30pm: Lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan (Labour Party leader) and Albert Ho Chun-yan (former Democratic Party leader) pledge to remain in Chater Road to back the students' 'occupy' action.

10.14pm: Kay Tse’s controversial new Canto-pop song 'Egg and Lamb', which was uploaded on YouTube on June 30, has so far attracted more than 270,000 views. The song talks about how a free man turned into a slave, and how “eggs crash into wall” refusing to yield.

Pop singer Hocc, who is an outspoken gay rights advocate, has uploaded a picture of her joining the protest with fellow singer Anthony Wong Yiu-ming onto her Facebook page. The picture has drawn more than 15,000 'Likes' in six hours.

10pm: Scholarism activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung tells the SCMP how a uniformed policeman pushed him to the ground at about 6pm on Yee Wo Street when he was asking police why they were setting up more barricades there.

"I was asking them for an explanation peacefully and was not attempting to push the barricades off. But an officer ordered me to leave the demonstration zone immediately. He then pushed me on my chest and I fell onto the ground," 17-year-old Wong said.

9.56pm: Student-led group Scholarism leaders, Oscar Lai Man-lok and Joshua Wong Chi-fung, appear onstage in the Chater Road rally. Wong says he is prepared for the pepper sprays which might be used by police against their occupy action.

Chow Yong-kang, Secretary-General of Hong Kong Federation of Students, calls on Hongkongers to back their civil disobedience action. "Without the support of Hongkongers, I am sure police would take swift or even violent action to clear the scene," he said.

9.36pm: Speeches and proclamations are coming thick and fast as group leaders try to keep demonstrators motivated.

Johnson Yeung Ching-yin, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, said the city did not need to take orders from the "dictatorship thousands miles away". "Tonight, [the young people] would kick off the prologue of the fight ... our fate should be decided by the people, but not Leung Chun-ying, [development chief] Paul Chan Mo-po and the central government," he said.

Civic Party barrister Tanya Chan, a former legislator and rally host, urged the police on duty tonight to show restraint. "We might look like standing on the opposite sides today, but afte rall, you are also Hongkongers," she said. "What actions you take against the protesters tonight might affect the city's future."

The hosts also briefed the protesters on the principles of non-violent resistance, such as not hitting back and being friendly to police.

9.28pm: Civic Passion leader Wong Yeung-tat tells the Post: "We will start a rally outside Wanchai Methodist church after the tail has passed by. And we will see how the students sit-in goes and decide what are we going to do."

The League of Social Democrats' vice chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen says some League members will join the students' protests, although the League will not stage a demonstration of its own tonight.

9.10pm. Chater Road is occupied. Hundreds of students are sitting in the road under the glare of spotlights, stretching back several hundred metres. It is unclear how long they will stay or whether police will move them on. The protest was organised by the Federation of Students and Scholarism and was billed as a practice run for Occupy Central.

Another loud hiss from the crowd as one of the rally organisers reads out the government's statement on the march, which once again said public nomination would not be allowed - one of the key demands of protesters.

8.55pm: Thousands of people join a rally at Chater Road, extending from Jackson Road to Ice House Street.

Police say they will take decisive action to ensure law and order and public peace are maintained. Senior superintendent of Police Public Relations Branch, Kong Man-Keung, said the force had not issued a notice of no objection in relation to the planned sit-in by students in Chater Road after the march.

He said such activities at night may be dangerous as people gather in dim light. He urged demonstrators to follow police instructions and take part in the rally peacefully, adding that media reporting the event should also be careful.

"If any activity is posing threat to public safety and order, especially if marches were held at night, light would be insufficient and it will be dangerous - so the police would take action decisively," Kong said.

"I also call for the relevant bodies... to express their demands peacefully and rationally, to keep calm, exercise restraint, and listen to the police's appeals and instructions.

8.45pm: Protesters in Chater Road give out a loud hiss in unison after organisers reveal the official police turnout figure of 92,000. Official figures given by the police and protest organisers usually vary wildly as both sides attempt to score points with high or low turnout figures. Actual figures nornally fall somewhere between the two.

8.30pm: Civic Party barrister Alvin Yeung is briefing protesters on what to do and what rights they have if they are arrested.

Albert Ho Chun-yan of the Democratic Party says he has not seen such a large turnout since the rally in 2003. "It shows Hong Kong people demand real 'one country, two systems,'" he says.

Meanwhile Apple Daily's Facebook page says it has been under severe cyber attack since mid-afternoon. Their site first went down shortly before 3pm, recovered at 5.30pm, and crashed again at 7pm.

8.19pm: Police say 92,000 marchers set off from from Victoria Park today.

Officers say a 22-year-old man was arrested in Causeway Bay for vandalism when he threw a metal barrier at a bus.

8.05pm: Hundreds of protesters have gathered at Chater Road, where students have pledged to spend the night in rehearsal for Occupy Central. Police say they will give a press briefing at 8.15pm.

Hosts of the rally at Chater Road blasted the police for stationing police cars at Jardine's Bazaar which blocked marchers from proceeding.

Singer Denis Ng led the protesters singing the cantonese version of "Do you hear the people sing?"

7.40pm: There are reports a convenor of the student activist group Scholarism, Joshua Wong Chi-fung was assaulted, leaving scratches on his face. Oscar Lai, a member of Scholarism who was alerted to the alleged incident, was unable to confirm the whereabouts and the condition of Wong.

7.37pm: The rally has lasted longer than even organisers expected. As the sky turns dark, street lamps are switched on in Victoria Park. "I have been a master of ceremonies for the march for 10 years," said Lit Ming-wai, an organiser of the annual demonstration. "It is the first time for me to see people still waiting to leave Victoria Park when night falls.

Meanwhile, Cantopop singers Anthony Wong Yiu-ming and Denise Ho Wan-si, who have both come out as gay and been outspoken on many political issues in the past, are cheering for marchers in Causeway Bay near Sogo.Wong said he had been stationed there since 3pm and that he wanted to call for more people to voice their opinions.

"I think Hong Kong is at its worst time now," said Wong. "We need to stand out and tell the government that we need real universal democracy. No one wants to get that far as to occupy Central, but it'll be a special measure in special time."

7.20pm: Four hours after the march kicked off the last batch of participants are walking through Victoria Park, where things all began just after 3pm. Using loudspeakers, organisers thank the last ones for their patience, through sun and rain. Among the last to leave are a group of People's Power members, waving orange flags.

7.06pm: Avery Ng of the League of Social Democrats said chairman "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung wanted to join the march but was frustrated by his jail term.

"Treasure the chance you can to march today. Don't let me see you exit and give up when you reach Wan Chai," Ng urged fellow protesters

6.55pm: In its official response to the public procession today, the government says it respects residents' freedom and right of expression and has always encouraged the public to express their views via legal channels and in a peaceful manner.

But in case of any contravention of the law and breach of public order, "law enforcement agencies will handle such a situation strictly in accordance with the law to ensure that law and order and public peace are maintained in Hong Kong", a government statement said.

It reiterated that proposals on political development should be, legally, strictly in accordance with the Basic Law and relevant Interpretation and Decisions of the NPCSC.

Regarding the civic nomination proposal advocated by some groups and individuals, the government said it believes that it is unlikely that such a proposal will be adopted.

It said it had collected different views expressed by different groups and individuals in the community during the five-month public consultation on constitutional development and would "faithfully reflect the views received during the consultation period in the consultation report".

The government is aware that a host of other public aspirations are expressed in today's procession, it added, and will continue its endeavour to tackle various problems including those related to economic development, housing, poverty, ageing society and the environment, it added.

6.34pm: Crowds in Victoria Park are becoming increasingly angry at being hemmed in, with protesters again stopped from leaving. Shouts of 'make way' go up from demonstrators. When the MC on stage providing entertainment asks who voted in the unofficial Occupy Central poll a sea of hands shoots up.

6.29pm: Police warn march organiser, the Civil Human Rights Front, that they may take legal action for failing to heed police instructions. Wan Chai District Commander Leung Sai-kau says: "The organisers’ car that is leading the procession has been progressing very slowly and at times stopped We have repeatedly asked the organisers to keep moving but we were ignored.

"The police expressed extreme disappointment with the un-cooperative attitude of the organisers and may pursue legal liability in accordance with the law.”

Leung also rejects calls by the front to open up the entire Hennessy Road to accommodate the protesters, saying doing so could seriously affect emergency services or other road users.

6.15pm: Mainland shoppers are going about their business in the stores of Causeway Bay despite the hours-long protest outside. Annie Yen of Shanghai, who was looking at dresses on Hennessy Road, said she wasn't fazed by the demonstrators, but opposed divisions between Hong Kong and China.

"Freedom is very important but I think we should unite together," said the doctor, visiting the city for a short holiday and fearing a potential escalation in violence. "We shouldn't do anything to separate from our big family of China," she said. "War is not good. We shouldn't have a war."

6pm: Police make a statement telling organisers the procession is moving too slowly and urging them to speed things up and let the demonstrators proceed as quickly as possible. They accuse organisers of disregarding police advice and warnings and taking too long to complete the designated route.

Countering police accusations, the front's convenor Johnson Yeung Ching-yin says in Admiralty that they are stopping repeatedly because they know that with the bottleneck in Causeway Bay, that there's no way marchers can catch up with the head. Yeung urge police to open more road lanes to increase pedestrian flow.

Outside Sogo department store demonstrators break through a police cordon and spill onto the other side of Hennessy Road, leaving just one lane open to traffic.

In Victoria Park a group of protesters accuse police of trapping them. "Let me out to pee! Why don't you let me out!" one elderly woman yells.

5.46pm: A group of mainland tourists carrying luggage outside Victoria Park look shocked by the road blockage and sea of white t-shirts. They ask protesters what is going on, and when told it is an anti-government rally, say they are amazed by the passion of Hongkongers, although they decline an invitation to join the crowd.

Hong Kong Observatory extends its thunderstorm warning until 6.30pm. Things could get very wet indeed.

5.40pm: The heavens have finally opened in Causeway Bay. The rain is coming down hard, angering protesters who are still being blocked from marching by police. Many are urging police to clear the roads and let them start. Umbrellas are up everywhere and many are seeking shelter under shop awnings.

5.35pm: A group of about 20 gay rights demonstrators gather at Victoria Park, each holding a rainbow-coloured umbrella. Eric Chan Wang-yuen, 28, said he felt gay rights were closely connected to the universal suffrage, because they were both universal values and only a government elected by the people would listen to voices of the marginal.

"I've been joining similar demonstrations every time but I feel the more voices we have the less willing to listen the government has become, which makes me even angrier," said Chan. "If we don't stand out this year, we may not be able to next year. We need to wake up and be responsible for ourselves."

5.20pm: A human traffic jam has snarled up the junction of Jardine's Bazaar and Yee Wo Street, not helped by multitudes of bemused shoppers trying to squeeze their way through the crowds. Hundreds of protesters have been locked in place for over an hour now, with some speculating that police are deliberately using tactics to stem the flow of the demonstration.

Outside Victoria Park people are chanting 'Open up' as police continue to keep roads closed and traffic flowing.

5.05pm: The march is developing a life of its own. In Wan Chai hundreds of demonstrators overtook the march organisers and northeastern New Territories villagers who were supposedly fronting the procession, and struck out for Central alone. By 5pm they had reached the Bank of China Tower and will reach the Chater Road finish point soon.

Civic organisations and political parties booths line the route.

SCMP reporters on the ground say they have never witnessed anything like it before.

4.56pm: The rain has started - bringing relief to many along the route. The head of the march has already reached Pacific Place and still there is a seemingly endless stream of protesters pouring off the Tin Hau MTR and patiently queueing up to get started (are they going round again?).

Police are telling them the park is full and now Tin Hau is filling up. Were the organisers right about a possible 500,000 turnout?

Marchers in Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay, are urging police to clear the roads and let them through.

4.38pm A girl faints in the stifling heat of Victoria Park. Crowds make way for medics as friends put a bag under her head. It's nearing 5pm and the temperature has just dipped below 30C.

4.25pm: Huge crowds are still trying to get into Victoria Park at the Tin Hau end, despite the protest having been underway for well over an hour. The streets of Causeway Bay are awash with demonstrators. Some of those in the park are complaining that police are using the traffic flow outside to hem them in.

4pm: At Hennessy Road near Morrison Hill, members of a local arts troupe, FM Theater Power, spread a blanket on the road of title pages from the white paper, sprinkled with water and antiseptic solution to look like blood blotches. "What it says violates one country, two systems," said Tsang Lok Sze. Fellow actor Fung sai Kuen stomped his foot on the ground. "It steps on one country, two systems!"

3.55pm: Anson Chan Fang On-sang, former chief secretary, joins the march with members of her think-tank Hong Kong 2020.

"I appreciate the students' courage but I call for restraint on all sides, including the students and police," she said, when asked whether she supported the students' plan to rehearse Occupy Central sit-in tonight.

Chan also called for sincerity in the central and local governments in negotiating the electoral reform to give Hong Kong people a genuine choice in candidates in the 2017 chief executive election.

3.45pm: To give an idea of the police presence in the city this afternoon, there are officers stationed every few metres on both sides of Hennessy Road outside the Sogo store in Causeway Bay, awaiting the arrival of the first demonstrators.

3.23pm: And they're off! The march has officially started, albeit a little late. The far end of Victoria Park remains at a standstill, with people still queuing to get in, but a great swell of people is on the move under grey skies.

3.16pm: The crowd is becoming impatient at the Tin Hau end of Victoria Park, with people climbing over railings to get in. there's live singing onstage in the park, while elsewhere, as far afield as Wan Chai, sporadic outbursts of Do You Hear The People Sing can be heard.

3.10pm: Marchers of all ages are taking part today. Tom Shum, 40, is taking part with his wife and two young daughters - aged just five and two years. "My older daughter didn't want to come as she said it's so hot today but I tell her we have to come to protect our city," Shum, an advertising worker, said. He said his family were spurred to attend by the proposed new towns development in the New Territories.

Chuk Ka-man, 31, said the time has comefor Hongkongers to speak up. "If we don't come out and say something now, we won't be able to do it in the future," she said.

Sou Ka-hou, of Macau Conscience, a pro-democracy group, said he came to the march to support public nomination for Hong Kong people. "If Hong Kong people don't have this, we in Macau will also be doomed," he said.

2.58pm: All of the football fields and the lawn are now open, according to a public announcement. The park is a sea of umbrellas and fans as sweltering protesters battle to keep the sun at bay. This time last year it was a very different picture as marchers were getting drenched as a T3 typhoon warning was in force.

2.50pm: Organisers say two of Victoria Park's football fields are full and protesters are being herded into other areas of the park. One of the six fields at the Tin Hau end of the park is still almost empty, but heavy congestion appears to have brought things to a standstill. The streets of Causeway Bay are filling up and the volume is increasing.

2.27pm: Beijing's white paper and CY Leung's portrait this morning became the first casualties of the day, when both were burnt by protesters demanding public nomination of the chief executive in 2017. In a speech CY said the city’s residents should avoid doing anything that might damage Hong Kong’s “prosperity and stability". But will they heed his words this afternoon?

2.10pm: The police deployment of 4,000 officers to the streets of Hong Kong for today's march is the largest the city has seen since the World Trade Organisation's ministerial conference in December 2005, when anti-globalisation activists from around the world flocked to the city. 

1.55pm: Burning issues on the 17th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong include Occupy Central’s unofficial referendum on the election of the chief executive in 2017, Beijing’s recently released white paper and the building of new towns in the New Territories. The Observatory has issued a Hot Weather Warning, with temperatures currently touching 31C.

1.45pm: With an hour-and-a-quarter to go until the annual July 1 march kicks off, much of the city remains quiet, but preparations are underway at both ends of Hong Kong. There's a carnival atmosphere in Victoria Park as thousands of marchers gather and protesters yell slogans through loudhailers, while workers in Central are busy erecting water barriers. A number of shops on Chater Road, where the march ends, have already closed their doors, including luxury stores Chanel and Cartier. Other stores, including Prada and Armani, are closing early.