Hong Kong localism and independence

Universal suffrage back in focus for Hong Kong New Year march

Organisers fearing a lower turnout warn that departure of Leung may bring more of same

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 December, 2016, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 3:10pm

Organisers of a January 1 march for universal suffrage are worried about a lower turnout as a result of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announcing that he will not seek a second term.

Civil Human Rights Front, the group behind the event, warned that Leung’s high-handed style of governance would not necessarily fade with his departure, citing recent controversies surrounding two possible successors.

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“Many citizens may feel relieved after [Leung’s announcement] or even place their hopes on some candidates,” front convenor Au Nok-hin said.

But he added that lawmaker and former minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who has officially announced her intention to run for the top job, and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, widely tipped to join the race, have both shown their liking for an iron-fisted, Beijing-first style of governance.

Ip has said that she will revive the controversial Article 23 national security legislation if elected.

The bill has been widely criticised amid fears it would be used to suppress opposition.

In 2003, as security minister, Ip was in charge of pushing the bill through the Legislative Council, but her combative approach made her the most unpopular government official at the time. She stepped down after 500,000 people took to the streets in protest. The bill was shelved.

Lam, who has not yet announced her candidacy, is deemed by many as being too close to both Beijing and Leung.

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She sparked calls for transparency last week after the sudden announcement of a deal with Beijing to build a HK$3.5 billion Hong Kong version of the Palace Museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District. She defended the proposal and said it would be “embarrassing” if public consultation prompted opposition.

Au said the march on New Year’s Day would call on the public to decry such a style of governance and Beijing’s interference in the city’s legal system by one-sidedly issuing amendments to laws through “interpretation”.

The march would also call on the government to rescind its judicial review seeking to disqualify four elected pro-democratic lawmakers, following the Legco oath row that saw two localist lawmakers-elect removed for their anti-China sentiments.

Au said the expected 50,000-strong march was intended to put the focus back on the fight for genuine universal suffrage, and the front had already gained police approval.

The march will start at 2pm in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, and end in the pedestrian zone on Chater Road, Central.