Hong Kong politics

July 1 march

July 1 march organiser claims turnout of 110,000, far above police estimate of 19,300

Force’s figure down from the 19,650 they tallied at last year’s event

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 July, 2016, 3:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 July, 2016, 9:20pm

This was the Post’s real-time coverage of the July 1 march.

7.17pm: Organiser announces turnout

Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, announced that 110,000 people attended today.

He thanked Hongkongers for attending the protest despite the hot weather. He also urged protesters to continue to pay attention to the case of bookseller Lam Wing-kee to ensure his safety.

Police, however, estimated turnout was only 19,300 at its peak – down from the 19,650 participants the force counted in last year’s march.

6.10pm: Police reinforcements ready

Meanwhile, further west of Admiralty, outside Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, which radical protesters earlier vowed to besiege, no protesters had yet been seen.

Police were tightly controlling vehicular traffic on Connaught Road West, with more than 40 officers stationed at the office’s door.

They set up several designated public activities areas in apparent anticipation of a protest planned by localists from 7pm.

Scores of plainclothes and uniformed officers in uniform were fanned out up to two blocks from the office, with around ten police vehicles parked near the office.

5.45pm: Canto-pop stars are out

The rear of the march has passed Canal Road in Causeway Bay.

Canto-pop singers Denise Ho Wan-sze and Anthony Wong Yiu-ming waved to fans and helped collect donations for the LGBT group “BigLove Alliance” on Hennessy Road during the march. At one point, Ho waved a shirt that read “I am Hong Kong.”

“Our group represents those with LGBT identities,” Ho said to the crowd in Cantonese. “We stand together with Hongkongers in fighting against the dominant power.”

Ho was embroiled in controversy last month after cosmetics giant Lancome announced it was cancelling a promotional event at which she was to perform. Ho was a vocal supporter of the pro-democracy Occupy movement.

“Hongkongers, we need to hang in there,” she said when asked to take a microphone. “Let us all be tough in this fight!”

5.20pm: If water sales are any indication...

It has not been a good day for Irving Street shopkeeper Herbert Chan, 30, who estimated his water sales were down 20 per cent on last year despite his prime location along the protest route.

Although he had sold water for the past four years he had never attended the protest himself, describing himself as unhappy with CY Leung but “neutral”.

5.10pm: First marchers arrive in Admiralty

The vanguard of the procession arrives at Harcourt Road in Admiralty, where the pro-democracy Occupy movement took place almost two years ago.

5pm: Test run for Telegram

At Irving Street and as the march continued towards Wan Chai, volunteers with Benny Tai Yiu-ting – a leaving voice of the Occupy movement – were helping marchers install a Telegram app to help counting turnout for the day.

The use of Telegram, an app touted for its security, amounted to a test run for Tai as he readies a plan called Thunderbolt to win half of the city’s Legislative Council seats in September.

4.30pm: The protesters’ concerns

From the missing booksellers saga to general dissatisfaction with the city’s future, protesters on Friday revealed a variety of reasons for joining the march.

Lawyer Ambrose Lau, 65, said he participated every year and brought along his family this time. Lau described the city’s political environment as deteriorating over the past 19 years, and hoped the administration could safeguard the city’s autonomy.

Followed by strangers, bookseller Lam Wing-kee pulls out of July 1 march fearing ‘serious threat’ to personal safety

“Taking the booksellers incident as an example, Beijing has been eroding our freedom of speech in Hong Kong,” he said.

“I was afraid that if I didn’t come out this year, there’ll be no more July 1 rallies in the future.”

He also called for better judicial independence, claiming Beijing officials and some local residents had been exerting undue pressure on judges in Hong Kong.

Sixty years Lau’s junior, Yip Ka-kei, 6, joined the march for the first time this year. She said she wanted to tell education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim to scrap the Territory-wide System Assessment, also known as TSA, for all primary three students.

“I don’t want any exercises, just more leisure time,” she said.

The primary one student said she needed to attend three-hour-tutorial classes after school, and was overloaded with TSA exercises until she went to bed at 10pm.

She complained about having no free time on the weekends because she needed to go to piano classes, languages lessons and sport sessions.

“No TSA,” she said. “Let kids do what kids should do.”

Denise Chow, 24, who works at a local university, was one of the individuals carrying a 100-metre yellow banner expressing opposition to the government’s development plan for Lantau Island.” She has been coming to the July 1 rally every year since 2003.

“The march is more organised now because they try to bring in different parties,” Chow said. “I want to let more people know that there are these developments.”

Andrew Man, 22, from Lingnan University’s student union, turned out to protest tertiary education issues, including how Putonghua was being used to teach Chinese.

He was unhappy with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s leadership and felt Hong Kong’s future was “uncertain”.

“I hate him,” Man said, adding he felt Leung was illegitimate and did not represent young people.

Fellow Lingnan University student union representative Flora Yiu, also 22, had come to the protest for the last two years to demand freedom of speech.

“It is my obligation to speak up,” she said.

Yiu said young people were “puzzled, disappointed and confused” about Hong Kong’s future.

“There’s a lot we have done to try to change the situation but however, it doesn’t work.”

Police stand prepared as July 1 protesters plan to start fires in 1,000-man siege on Beijing liaison office

Then there was Eric Wear, a permanent resident of the city who originally hails from the United States but arrived in Hong Kong in 1988. He said he’s been coming to the protest every year since it started.

“It’s not a very hopeful time,” the retired professor said.

“I think people feel a measure of hopelessness about the situation. That doesn’t mean they’re satisfied or happy. It simply means they’re not quite sure what to do now.”

He said the family of his wife, a Hong Kong native, were gradually leaving the city as they saw no future for their children. “It’s a sense of losing your home,” he said.

Although Wear did not expect the protest to have an immediate impact, he said it was necessary to continue turning out.

“It’s a question of people’s dignity,” he said.

“We’d like to see people recognised as citizens not subjects.”

4pm: A brief history of the march

The annual march has taken place since the handover in 1997. From 1997 to 2002, the protest was not well known to the public.

The first march in 1997 drew 3,000 participants; the year after, just hundreds.

From 1997 to 2002, the march was organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

Everything you need to know about Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty

2003 was the watershed moment for the march as some half a million Hongkongers took to the streets to oppose the government’s proposal to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law pertaining to acts of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against Beijing. The march was soon followed by the resignation of Tung Chee-hwa, who was chief executive at the time.

3.30pm: Victoria Park turnout lower than expected

The annual pro-democracy march officially kicked off at around 3.25pm from Victoria Park, but turnout appeared to be lower at its outset than in previous years.

By the time the march began, only two of the park’s six football pitches had been filled, compared with the usual four or five pitches being filled by the march’s start.

March co-leader Ching Cheong said Lam Wing-kee’s withdrawal from the march due to personal safety concerns was unfortunate not only for the bookseller.

“Hongkongers are losing their basic sense of security now,” he said ahead of the march. “The precious freedom from fear is also dissipating.”

He urged Hongkongers to stand up to defend their core values, which he said had been gradually disappearing since the city’s handover in 1997.

The annual July 1 march that was to kick off at 3pm was expected to intensely express Hongkongers’ anger, fears and doubts over “one country, two systems”, fuelled by the missing booksellers saga.

Yet the march was also being dismissed as “ritualistic” by pro-democracy localist groups, who are vowing to “besiege” Beijing’s liaison office in the city in a “black-bloc” protest as the night unfolds.

In just one measure of the unease gripping the city, Lam Wing-kee, the Causeway Bay Books store manager who went missing for eight months and returned to the city last month claiming he was abducted by mainland agents, pulled out of leading this year’s pro-democracy march, citing a “serious threat” to his personal safety.

Is Hong Kong’s July 1 rally in danger of going backwards?

Lam’s account of what happened to him on the mainland has raised questions about the Hong Kong government’s ability to protect its residents from the reach of central government agencies.

Journalist Ching Cheong and activist Lau Shan-ching, two other Hongkongers who were detained on the mainland for political reasons, were invited to jointly lead the procession from Victoria Park to Admiralty.

March organiser Civil Human Rights Front estimated 100,000 people would take part.

While the front had no plans to continue protesting after the march, localist groups were vowing an additional, confrontational event.

The Hong Kong National Party, Hong Kong Indigenous and Youngspiration have criticised the July 1 march as pointless, despite its calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Separate from the march, the three groups planned to gather outside the central government’s liaison office from 7pm to demand independence for the city.

Police indicated a plan to pre-empt violence by stopping and searching individuals who gathered outside the office.

The student union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong posted a message on Facebook calling on Hongkongers to join the gathering on a day it said marked “the fall of Hong Kong”.

Police earlier said they were ready to deploy 2,000 officers to monitor the march and the subsequent protest.