July 1 march

Critics have harsh words for Hong Kong's democracy march and rally

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 2:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 7:30pm

While thousands flocked to Victoria Park yesterday to participate in the annual pro-democracy rally and march, there was no shortage of harsh words from their opponents.

Some dismissed it as "pointless". Others said they were fed up with the seemingly endless protests of the past year and wanted harmony.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which organised the event, was banking on public discontent with the government after last year's Occupy protests to turn it into another massive anti-government display. The Occupy protesters took over roads in Mong Kok, Admiralty and Causeway Bay to press Beijing to give Hong Kong what they considered "genuine universal suffrage".

Nothing was achieved, though, and the campaign, characterised by violent conflicts between supporters, opponents and police, ended after 79 days.

Yesterday morning in Taikoo Shing, Loren Lau, a 50-year-old administrative officer, said she was not interested in joining the marchers because "they are too extreme". She dismissed the young activists as "spoiled children" who only offered criticism but no solutions. "Democracy doesn't mean you want your way only," she said.

In Central, waiter Edwin Chung Long-win, 20, said his father forced him to join the July 1 rallies in the past, but he did not support the activists' demands and feared the march could degenerate into violence.

"Their idea of freedom isn't mine. The 'umbrella movement' was only propaganda. [The protesters] damaged public property and fought with police officers," Chung said.

Accountant Susan Chan, 33, of Causeway Bay, had also marched in the past but said she was fed up with the "pan-democrats' anti-everything attitude" and decided not to take part this year.

"I don't quite follow the pan-democrats' logic. When the government allows all people one man, one vote, they say no and reject the political reform. Now they come out and say they will fight for democracy for us," Chan said. "Hong Kong people would have been able to elect our chief executive but for the pan-democrats."

The political reform proposed by the government was voted down 28-8 in the Legislative Council last month after 31 pro-establishment lawmakers walked out in a failed attempt to delay the vote. Without the support of the 27 pan-democrats, the reform package could not get the two-thirds majority in the legislature required for it to pass anyway.

Secondary school teacher William Li, 54, said he did not think protests were effective in pressuring the government.

"I have joined several marches after the Occupy movement and the turnout was so low. People seem to have turned to more radical action, like storming the Legislative Council."

Li was once a regular at the July 1 marches but decided to stay at home this year.

High school pupil Dominic Wan, 18, chose to spend the day shopping. "We don't have anything to complain about. I'm not too fond of this Occupy thing. I don't believe it's good for Hong Kong. [They] annoy a lot of people. I think Hong Kong is good as it is. I think we depend on China."

Restaurant manager Michael Lee, 45, said: "What I want is a more peaceful Hong Kong. Since the Occupy movement, I have been feeling a sense of insecurity. The city is not as safe as it was before."