Hong Kong national security law: police ban July 1 march planned to protest against legislation

Natalie Wong

Hong Kong police have banned the annual July 1 march, with many primed on Wednesday to protest against the imposition of the national security law, while an appeal board refused to overturn the force’s ban on a Sunday rally planned by district councillors.

The Civil Human Rights Front, organiser of the July 1 march, said on Saturday it would appeal against the decision and would not withdraw its earlier calls for people to march from Victoria Park to government headquarters in Admiralty at 3pm on the day, even if the plea was dismissed.

“The police’s repeated suppression of people’s right to assemble sends a clear message to the world that human rights in Hong Kong have been eroded,” said Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, the front’s convenor. “It could get even worse after the national security law is passed.”

To ban the march, police cited a social-distancing regulation brought about by the coronavirus pandemic that prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people and advice from the Department of Health that contact should be minimised to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Push for backdated Hong Kong security law with stiffer penalties

The force’s letter to the front also listed eight previous rallies it organised since June last year in which police observed violence during or after their dismissal.

“The force believes that even though [social-distancing measures] are put in place, the aim of safeguarding public order, public safety and protecting others rights and freedom will not be achieved,” police said.

Jimmy Sham is convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front. Photo: Dickson Lee

The rally organiser earlier suggested adopting social-distancing measures such as implementing crowd control in a public park or at street corners, splitting the procession into phases, and marching on alternate lanes of the road.

Amid anti-government protests sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, the march last year attracted an estimated 550,000 people.

Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung replied to Sham in an email on Saturday, saying the government did not believe the planned march could be exempted from the rules.

China’s top legislative body is on Tuesday expected to pass the security law, so the march, held annually on the anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule, could be the first large-scale public event after that.

Organisers expect traditional July 1 march in Hong Kong to be banned

While all eyes are on how the new law might affect protesters, Ip Kwok-him, a veteran Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress, the country’s legislature, warned people against displaying flags of other countries or advocating Hong Kong independence.

“[Such acts] must violate the national security law, as the legislation was planned to target those who advocate Hong Kong independence,” he said.

Separately, the Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions on Saturday afternoon dismissed the pleas of two opposition district councillors who had applied to hold rallies on Sunday and July 1. Police earlier denied them permission to organise the rallies.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the board said the rallies would pose “serious threats to public order” while the organisers’ proposed social-distancing measures were “impractical”.

Andy Chui Chi-kin, one of the applicants, decided to call off the rallies planned for both days and vowed to explore other forms of resistance against the security law with opposition councillors.

Rebel City: Hong Kong’s Year of Water and Fire is a new book of essays that chronicles the political confrontation that has gripped the city since June 2019. Edited by the South China Morning Post's Zuraidah Ibrahim and Jeffie Lam, the book draws on work from the Post's newsrooms across Hong Kong, Beijing, Washington and Singapore, with unmatched insights into all sides of the conflict. Buy directly from SCMP today and get a 15% discount (regular price HKD$198). It is available at major bookshops worldwide or online through Amazon, Kobo, Google Books, and eBooks.com.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Hong Kong national security law: police ban July 1 march planned to protest against legislation first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.