1,000 march in protest against small-circle vote on eve of Hong Kong leadership election

Organiser Civil Human Rights Front says it did not intend to change the outcome, but event was meant to highlight democracy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 March, 2017, 8:34pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 March, 2017, 8:16am

Hundreds of Hongkongers took to the streets on Saturday to oppose Beijing’s influence on the chief executive election, which takes place on Sunday.

“We want universal suffrage. We want to abolish the small-circle election,” Au Nok-hin, convenor of Civil Human Rights Front – the protest organiser – said.

He said the move was not intended to change the final results, but to remind people what true democracy meant. “No matter which candidate is elected, this is not democracy,” he said.

Three candidates are contending for the city’s top job – front runner and former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, widely seen as Beijing’s preferred choice; former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who enjoys high popularity ratings but is said to lack Beijing’s trust; and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing.

Au said about 1,000 people turned up for the protest, which was at the lower end of initial estimates pegged at 1,000 to 2,000. Members from the Civic Party, Labour Party, Democratic Party and the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood attended the march.

The protest did not end with Saturday’s march, however. Au said demonstrators planned to camp outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre – where Election Committee members would cast their ballots on Sunday – if the weather allowed, while another march to the venue would be organised during the voting in the morning.

Police attempted to stop the march on Saturday when protesters gathered at East Point Road in Causeway Bay at about 5.30pm. Authorities said the organiser failed to comply in advance with notification procedures. Marchers were informed that they might be prosecuted.

But protesters shrugged off the warning and went ahead with the march peacefully.

The hour-long event saw hundreds of police deployed along the 1,500-metre route.

Yvonne Chau, a social worker who participated in the protest march, said she was there to stand up for the youth of tomorrow.

She said the city’s freedoms were increasingly challenged by Beijing and it had become harder for the next generation to move up the social ladder.

“I grew up in a free society and benefited from it. I can’t bear to see young people losing this freedom,” she said.