The anti-Occupy Central rally in Hong Kong on Sunday drew much lower turnout when compared to the July 1 pro-democracy march, a fact that will not escape the attention of various political groups in the city.
The Alliance for Peace and Democracy, which organized yesterday’s rally, said 193,000 people took part in the march, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Monday. According to the Public Opinion Pogramme of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), the turnout for the pro-Beijing rally was in the 79,000 to 88,000 range.
Whatever the figure may be, there is no doubt that it is far less than the turnout seen at the July 1 rally. Organizers of the July event had claimed that as many as 510,000 people took part in the pro-reforms march, while the HKU had put the figure at 172,000.
Paul Yip, a professor at the HKU’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration, said only 52,000 to 63,000 people actually marched in yesterday’s rally, as several persons either opted out right at the starting point at Victoria Park or took the subway directly to Central and re-joined the rally toward the end.
Hong Kong police put the number at the Sunday rally at a little more than 110,000.
Pro-establishment camps including local pro-Beijing groups, and labor and community associations were among the 1,170 groups that signed up for the anti-Occupy Central protest.
The protesters included lawmakers Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Michael Tien from the New People’s Party, Tam Yiu-chung and Starry Lee Wai-king from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong; and Priscilla Leung Mei-fun from the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong.
Hennessy Road, the main route of the rally between Causeway Bay and Wanchai, was not packed with people at yesterday’s event, unlike the overwhelming crowds that were seen in the pro-reforms rally on July 1, Apple Daily noted.
Sunday’s rally marked the finale of a month-long petition campaign against Occupy Central. Organizers claimed that nearly 1.5 million people had signed the petition, but critics have pointed to loopholes that allowed people to put in duplicate or fake endorsements through an electronic voting system.
An unofficial referendum held in late June by Occupy Central organizers garnered 800,000 votes.
Dr Chan Kin-man, an organizer of Occupy Central, said he respects people’s right to express various opinions, but said he hopes that everyone understands that Occupy Central is a peaceful and non-violent movement.
As for the Hong Kong government, it said in a statement that it “welcomes and supports all activities which take forward the implementation of universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017 in accordance with the law” while opposing all unlawful acts which affect social order.
Some critics had alleged that organizers of Sunday’s rally had boosted the turnout through incentives such as free lunch and city tours.
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