In a speech to supporters, the convener of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party Chan Ho-tin asked followers planning to attend the party’s rally on Friday to dress well in order to change the image of independence advocates. Chan emphasised that the rally itself will be “absolutely peaceful.”
“Come dressed like office ladies and businessmen in Central, that will be good,” he said during a Facebook live session on Thursday. “The image of independence advocates should not be a group of thugs or losers. We are people who do big things, we are people with a good image – a lot of us are professionals.”
Chan called the rally after five hopefuls, including himself, who advocated independence or a return to the UK were banned from running in the upcoming Legislative Council election, creating questions of whether the election regulatory body has lost its neutrality in doing so.
The rally, with the theme “Defend Democracy, Retake Sovereignty,” will be hosted at Tamar Park in Admiralty between 8pm and 10pm on Friday. Speakers include the five rejected candidates, localist commentators, and a video clip from Billy Fung Jing-en, the former president of the University of Hong Kong’s student union, who is out of town.
Many anticipated more radical action than a peaceful rally, but Chan said during the live session that with rumours that 2,000 police officers will be present, along with the force’s improving strategies and equipment, such radical action may not achieve anything.
“We need to assess the number of people we have,” he said. “Luckily there may be thousands. But will it be tens of thousands? I have reservations.”
Chan said hypothetically, if the movement can bring more than 100,000 people out on the streets, he would not stop people from taking action, but this was not the case in reality.
“We have to be realistic about our numbers… I would say we don’t have the numbers to take big actions,” he added.
The party’s “big announcement” at the rally is about long term plans, not about spontaneous radical actions that will soon be controlled by police forces, said Chan.
“We are talking about taking back [the governance of] Hong Kong. We are not purely opposition groups that create scattered resistance on the streets and then start a riot,” Chan said. “What will happen after you overthrow the government in a riot? You still cannot govern it. We have a lot to prepare for – at this moment we don’t have enough strength.”
“It’s like baking a cake,” Chan added. “You have to think about sifting the flour, beating the eggs, pouring the milk, stirring the cream, making them look good… baking is only the final step.”
Chan has applied for a letter of no objection from the police, although it has yet to be approved. He said it will be an “absolutely peaceful, rational, non-violent rally,” adding that his party is preparing a stage and equipment.
Some urged Chan to switch the venue to Mong Kok, but he pointed out that Edward Leung Tin-kei and Ray Wong Toi-yeung of Hong Kong Indigenous were barred from the area due to a court order after charges for rioting in February.
“You have to realise that [the clashes in Mong Kok] happened due to many factors – it wasn’t organised by us. If we force it to happen again, we’d cause a lot of people to be arrested,” he said.