At least 2,000 protest banning of pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow from Legco race
Rally outside government headquarters seen as indicator of public outrage that might help opposition camp win more votes
At least 2,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest against the banning of pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow Ting from contesting the Legislative Council by-election in March.
The rally outside government headquarters in Admiralty was seen as an indicator of public outrage that might help win more votes for the opposition camp, but while some were not impressed by the turnout, organisers played down its significance.
Demosisto, Chow’s political party which led the rally, had no estimate of the turnout, but police put the number at about 2,000 at its peak.
The demonstration lasted about two hours as protesters packed the pavement outside government headquarters at Tamar, at one point spilling over onto Tim Mei Avenue and forcing police to close two northbound lanes to traffic.
Shouts of “anti-disqualification”, “anti-political persecution” and “support Chow Ting” rang in the air as opposition pan-democrat politicians took turns on the stage to address the protesters.
Demosisto chairman Nathan Law Kwun-chung, one of six opposition lawmakers ousted from the city’s legislature over improper oaths of office in 2016, said: “We did not count the number of people. It is not a numbers game. But you can see that many people are very angry about the government’s decision to disqualify Chow.”
The March 11 by-election is being held to fill four of the seats left vacant by the disqualified legislators.
Lau Siu-lai, one of the six ousted lawmakers, said: “For those who did not show up, it does not mean they do not support us. Many Hong Kong people may be so overwhelmed by the sad news about Agnes Chow’s disqualification that they could not come.”
She urged Hongkongers to “be brave” and face difficulties together.
The pan-democrats are planning another protest outside the venue for a candidate briefing set for Thursday by the Electoral Affairs Commission on logistics for the by-election.
Political scientist Cheung Chor-yung, of City University, said of the turnout: “It was not as huge as it was thought it might be. I am a bit pessimistic about it exerting any pressure on the government.”
Former Civic Party legislator and barrister Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee was emotional as she accused Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s administration of stripping Hongkongers of their right to run for public office and appealed for unity to “fight the battle”.
“We shall fight in society, we will fight in the court, we will fight in the international community. And we shall win, the rule of law will win, human rights will win, and Hong Kong people will win,” Ng told her audience.
Demosisto secretary general Joshua Wong Chi-fung accused the government of blocking young people’s voices in the legislature. “If we cannot enter Legco, it is to force us to be forever dissidents,” he said.
Sunday’s rally was originally aimed at showing support for 21-year-old Chow’s candidacy in the Hong Kong Island constituency, but she was informed on Saturday that she was disqualified on the grounds that her party advocated “self-determination” for Hong Kong, which the returning officer cited as proof that she could not meet requirements curbing independence advocacy.