Every July 1st, protesters converge on Victoria Park to mark one of the biggest dates on Hong Kong’s political calendar.
The main demand of the annual march has long been the realisation of greater democracy and defense of the territory’s autonomy and civil liberties – but that’s far from all that marchers are concerned about.
As a major media event that draws the eyes of both the local and international press, July 1st offers an unique platform for a diverse variety of political concerns to be heard.
Here are some of the causes you might have missed from this year’s rally.
1. Momentum 107
“In a democratic and liberal society, the government should not intervene with people’s personal lives. It’s our personal choice to decide if we need a car. The government said they need to reduce the number of cars so they’re going to increase taxes on vehicles, but that will strip us off of our right to drive. In 2010 the government increased vehicle tax but the number of vehicles didn’t fall – it rose. We’re collecting signatures for our petition today and hope that the government will withdraw the proposal.”
– Raymond Ho, spokesperson for anti-vehicle tax group Momentum 107
2. Hong Kong Smokers’ Rights Group
“Smokers pay high taxes but they’re treated worse than second-class citizens. We want to raise awareness among smokers to fight for their right to smoke. We can’t let the government bully us. We must fight for more smoking areas at beaches and parks, not just on street sides.”
– Aberbeen Cheung, spokesperson for HK smokers’ rights concern group
3. Lantau Buffalo Association
“The theme of today’s rally is defending Hong Kong’s right to self-determination, our human rights and the environment. Our message is to protect Lantau island, which has a lot of natural resources. The government is trying to open up the roads of South Lantau to private cars. [The proposal] received more than 1,200 responses during its ‘consultation process’, but they still approved it even though 80 percent opposed it… There are already too many cars and they often park on pathways. Buffaloes and people have to walk on the road and that’s very dangerous. Also, buffalos use the two sides of the road for grazing. Allowing more cars to come in will threaten the buffalo population in South Lantau.”
– Ho Loy, Chairperson of Lantau Buffalo Association
4. Public Housing Dog Owners
“We want to fight for living space for dogs. The Housing Authority has applied tougher enforcement against public housing residents who keep dogs in their flats. I know this is not allowed by law, but we have to consider how to integrate dogs into our society. We want to speak up for dogs who can’t do so for themselves. Because it is very difficult to change government policy, we want to at least make the government review the law. The law is very backward. This is a developed city, so why are our animal rights laws so backward?”
– Gabee Mak, spokesperson for group advocating right of public housing residents to keep dogs
5. Subdivided Flats
“Livelihood and democracy are inseparable. Our living environment is very bad and our living space is getting smaller and smaller. We are not included in the decision making process. We don’t have the power to decide where to live. The government is dominated by pro-establishment politicians and people who are not working for the public interest. We don’t have any influence or power to monitor the government, so we are left with very few options and cannot even meet our basic living needs. 300,000 people are currently waiting for public housing… We are asking the government to regulate rent and increase the availability of public housing in every district.”
– Amy Tse, spokesperson for Platform Concerning Subdivided Flats in Hong Kong
6. Social Economy Map
“Since the rally is about democracy and self determination, the concept of social economy and self-reliance that we are advocating is also relevant. A healthy economic life and vibrant economic activities are essential in a democratic society. Through community building, we make many local products such as handicrafts and farm produce. Community-based economic activities allow people to make ends meet and take an active role in society. Our members work with each other, get involved in decision making process and promote their products to other people… It’s not just about competition and profits, but rather about cooperation.”
– Pauline Chan, spokesperson for Social Economy Map
7. LGBTQ Rights
“We want democracy, including a democratically elected LegCo. In 2012 [Democratic Party legislator] Albert Ho proposed a gender equality bill but it was voted down by pro-establishment politicians, so you can tell that a privileged class is controlling our government. Also, no chief executive has put forward a platform for LGBTQ rights. Universal suffrage is very important: we don’t want functional constituencies and we want civil nomination… Many LGBTQ students experience discrimination and bullying. It’s vital that we pass an anti-discrimination law soon.”
– Louis Lee, Action Q spokesperson
8. HK Alliance Against Nukes
“Democracy is not just about elections but also about self determination, our policies, the rights to health and information, and science education. There are a lot of issue with our energy policy. A big problem is that we heavily rely on energy produced in China. There’s an outrageous plan to expand Hong Kong’s use of nuclear energy, and the permit for Daya Bay nuclear plant was just extended from 2014 to 2034… Nuclear energy is closely linked to politics and military. It’s never a suitable energy option. We need to decentralize our energy production and let local communities make decisions about their energy options.”
– Tam Daniel, spokesperson for HK Alliance Against Nukes