Hong Kong protests: July 1 march likely to be banned despite seven alternatives proposed by organisers

  • Civil Human Rights Front said it was ‘100 per cent’ expecting their application for a peaceful protest to be rejected
  • Social-distancing rules remain in place because of the coronavirus pandemic
South China Morning Post |

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Protesters march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to the Central Government Offices in Tamar on July 1, 2019.

The Civil Human Right Front, Hong Kong’s go-to organiser for large scale marches and rallies, has made seven different proposals to the police force in a bid to get approval for its annual July 1 pro-democracy march.

However, the group was “100 per cent” expecting the rally to be banned after a meeting with police on Tuesday, amid social-distancing rules imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. The group said they would lodge an appeal.

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“This is the most lacklustre meeting with police I’ve had in 10 years,” Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, the front’s convenor and a district councillor, said. “Police are using the pandemic [as an excuse] to suppress the public’s right to march and rally.”

During the meeting, the front put forward seven alternative proposals for the march from Causeway Bay to outside government headquarters in Admiralty. The front’s plans include imposing social-distancing measures, implementing crowd control in a public park or at street corners, splitting the procession into phases by age group or home addresses, and marching on alternate lanes of the road.

A helmet is seen left outside Legislative Council after protesters stormed the Legislative Council Chamber in Tamar during a protest against the extradition bill on the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from Britain to China.

Sham said organisers were willing to follow reasonable instructions from police to ensure the march went ahead. “For instance, if police think we need to give out surgical masks [to marchers], I think we can do that,” he said. “But they refused to say under what terms they will approve the march.

Last year’s July 1 march attracted an estimated 550,000 people, amid anti-government protests against the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

While it began peacefully, radical protesters broke into the Legislative Council and caused an estimated HK$40 million worth of damage on a day of unprecedented violence.

The force later said it was handling the application and it respected people’s rights to express opinions in a peaceful manner.

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“In handling each public events notice, [we] will conduct independent risk assessments,” it added.

Police previously banned a Labour Day demonstration application by trade unions, and the annual June 4 Tiananmen Square vigil, citing public health concerns.

July 1 was the day Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The march is a tradition in the city’s pro-democracy movement, and is seen as a barometer of the public’s grievances with the government of the day.

In 2003, the march drew a similar-sized crowd to 2019 as people protested against the government’s plan to enact national security laws under Article 23 of the Basic Law.

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