Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

Organisers of Hong Kong democracy march say police are infringing freedoms as protesters warned of possible arrest

The organisers of Hong Kong’s annual July 1 pro-democracy march say they are a considering an appeal over a police decision to limit the starting point of this year’s march to the lawn of Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park.

The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), a coalition of more than 50 activist groups behind the July 1 march, received a notice of no objection from the police last Friday. The notice stated that the police would not object to the march under the condition that it began at Victoria Park’s lawn.

xi jinping july 1 democracy march rally protest

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The CHRF said that the lawn was not a suitable starting point because it had a narrow entrance, only four metres in width. The CHRF did not apply to use the lawn.

In December 2017, the CHRF applied to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to use the football pitches at Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park as the starting point, but the application was rejected in April as charities have priority. The football pitches were instead promised to a pro-Beijing group for the second year in a row.

The CHRF subsequently proposed using the nearby East Point Road pedestrian zone or the Lockhart Road pedestrian zone as the starting point, but both options were rejected by the police on the grounds that they were popular tourist areas and crowd control would be difficult.

‘Infringement of freedom of assembly’

CHRF Deputy Convener Cheng Sze-lut said that the police were not the event organisers, and it was inappropriate and an “infringement of the freedom of assembly” for them to determine the starting point of the march.

Cheng said the CHRF was considering an appeal to the Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions. It was also seeking legal advice and would not rule out the possibility of a judicial review in court.

Civil Human Rights Front July 1 annual democracy march press conference 2018

Civil Human Rights Front. Photo: inmediahk.net.

The CHRF said the police did not actively respond to its proposals during the planning process and only repeated their own stance.

Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung said last Saturday that participants of the march could potentially be arrested for unlawful assembly if they do not comply with police instructions. The warning was echoed in a sponsored Facebook video posted by the police on the same day.

CHRF Convenor Sammy Ip Chi-hin said the activist groups were discussing whether to engage in civil disobedience, but noted that the cost of civil disobedience had risen and the CHRF needed to consider if participants could afford it.

Civil human rights front convener sammy ip chi-hin

CHRF Convener Sammy Ip Chi-hin. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Ip said the CHRF preferred not to engage in civil disobedience and – if necessary – it would do so non-violently and without obstructing major passageways.

Organisers of Hong Kong democracy march say police are infringing freedoms as protesters warned of possible arrest