Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Hong Kong’s democracy march wraps up peacefully after police and organisers grapple over starting point

Organisers of Hong Kong’s annual pro-democracy rally say there were no major confrontations between protesters and police on Sunday, after Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung issued a warning to demonstrators last month.

police july 1 democracy rally protest march

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Lo said on June 14 that participants could potentially be arrested for unlawful assembly at the July 1 rally if they do not join at designated locations.

On Sunday, police directed protesters to the lawn of Victoria Park to begin the march, a decision decried by organisers the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF).

july 1 democracy rally protest march

Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The CHRF estimated that 50,000 people attended the march, while police put the figure at 9,800 – the lowest in the rally’s 15-year history.

See also: In Pictures: ‘End one-party dictatorship’ – 50,000 join march for democracy in Hong Kong, say organisers 

CHRF convener Sammy Ip Chi-hin declared over the past week he would “set an example” by joining the march midway in defiance of police instructions. On Sunday, he announced an “official start” to the march after joining it outside Hysan Place.

police july 1 democracy rally protest march

Movement on bridges above the July 1 rally was restricted by police. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“The police intentionally made things difficult for us… I welcome the police to arrest me, whether now or when I get home,” Ip said. “I hope Hong Kong citizens can join us right here to show Stephen Lo we’re not afraid.”

Organisers also predicted that East Point Road, a popular pedestrian area near an MTR station exit, would be a likely flashpoint for confrontation. Lawmaker Au Nok-hin said before the march that participants should stay away from the area to “avoid giving an excuse for the police to arrest people.”

The CHRF said that, ultimately, no confrontations were observed at East Point Road. They thanked citizens for protesting peacefully.

July 1 police causeway bay

Uniformed police officers in Causeway Bay. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

After the march concluded, Ip told HKFP: “Today, the police did not stop protesters from joining midway during the march, which shows that Lo’s comments were without basis.”

A police spokesperson told HKFP on Sunday evening that he had no knowledge of any arrests made at the protest.

The CHRF had previously failed in their attempt to appeal the police’s arrangements. Ip said that the group is now considering a legal challenge, though specifics were still under discussion.

Monitoring police 

Fifteen members of the Civil Rights Observer also attended the democracy march to monitor police actions.

civil rights observer

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Andrew Shum Wai-nam, a member of the group, told HKFP that he was not aware of major incidents concerning the use of police power, though the group will publish a more comprehensive report later.

Concerns were raised over the July 1 democracy march after last year’s iteration resulted in the arrest of multiple activists and the alleged mistreatment of activists by police. Last year’s rally took place during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong, and coincided with Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s inauguration.

Counter-protesters 

Pro-Beijing counter-protesters heckled pro-democracy demonstrators outside Causeway Bay’s Central Library as they left Victoria Park. They were then met with jeers and boos.

Both sides of Causeway Road, the main road directly outside Victoria Park, were fenced off by metal barriers at the start of the march, separating the conflicting factions.

Access to some bridges was also more tightly controlled this year, with police asking journalists to keep moving.

HK independence advocates july 1

Hong Kong independence advocates. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The police also sent officers to film Hong Kong independence advocates and advocates for Hong Kong’s return to British rule at various points during the march.

After the demonstration ended, protester Lui Yuk-lin – nicknamed “Female Long Hair” – attempted to set fire to portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping and flags of the Chinese Communist Party. She first motioned to set fire to the papers inside Civic Square but was stopped by a security guard.

She repeated the action outside Civic Square, and later changed to hitting the papers instead of burning them following police warnings.

Hong Kong's democracy march wraps up peacefully after police and organisers grapple over starting point