Executive Councilor Regina Ip said giving food and transport allowance to participants in Sunday’s anti-Occupy Central march was understandable, government broadcaster RTHK reported Monday.
“It’s not easy to encourage citizens to attend the march given such hot weather. Some live far from downtown, so it’s understandable that they were given travel allowance,” Ip said.
She said it’s not surprising to have many people gather in a certain place to have lunch. “It’s just like gathering people before a picnic.”
She was reacting to claims that organizers gave the marchers free lunch and even brought them to restaurants.
Estimates of the turnout varied from 80,000 to 190,000, according to reports, citing academics, organizers and the police.
Police put attendance at 111,000 compared with their estimate of 98,600 for the pro-democracy march on July 1. The University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Program put the number between 79,000 and 88,000.
“We respect the estimate provided by the police but we are skeptical about the HKU figure which has a big gap with both estimates,” said Brave Chan Yung, a spokesman for the march organizers.
Chan said they have investigated reports some marchers were paid off and found the allegations were intended to disparage the march.
“We don’t think it’s possible to buy anyone with several hundred dollars,” he said. “Someone must have set things up.”
Starry Lee, a lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the rally was the biggest in 10 years, showing Hong Kong people won’t tolerate Occupy Central, the report said.
Meanwhile, 23 pan-democratic lawmakers joined the three organizers of Occupy Central, Anson Chan Fang On-sang and some student groups in full-page advertisements in three newspapers, saying only true universal suffrage will save Hong Kong and the next generation.
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