27 October 2016
About 48,000 joined the annual march on Wednesday, the lowest turnout since 2008. Photo: Reuters
About 48,000 joined the annual march on Wednesday, the lowest turnout since 2008. Photo: Reuters

July 1 march draws lowest turnout in seven years

Thousands of people marched on the government headquarters in Admiralty on Wednesday to demand genuine universal suffrage and call on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to step down.

About 48,000 joined the annual march, less than 10 percent of last year’s 510,000 and the lowest turnout since 2008, Ming Pao Daily reported, citing figures given by the organizers.

It was the third lowest turnout since the annual march began in 2003.

Organizer Civil Human Rights Front had expected a crowd of 100,000 for this year’s rally.

Front convenor Daisy Chan Sin-ying said the low turnout probably reflected the lack of pressing issues after legislators voted down the government’s election reform bill last month.

Police said about 6,200 protesters assembled at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay around 3:30 p.m. and marched toward Admiralty, with the crowd reaching 19,000 at their peak.

Under this year’s theme of “Build a democratic Hong Kong, regain the future of our city”, protesters held yellow umbrellas, a symbol for last year’s 79-day Occupy protests, and chanted slogans such as “I want genuine universal suffrage” and “Leung Chun-ying, step down”.

Other protesters called for amendments to the Basic Law, and mocked the pro-establishment walkout from the Legislative Council during the vote on political reform last month.

“Wait for Fat Suk,” they chanted, referring to pro-Beijing legislator Lau Wong-fat whose tardiness triggered the botched walkout and led to the overwhelming defeat of the government proposal for the 2017 chief executive election.

Asked why some protesters were calling for Hong Kong independence during the march, Chan said she felt sorry about that, but stressed the march is staged every year to serve as a platform where citizens can express their sentiments freely.

In a statement, the government said amending the Basic Law will not be conducive to the long-term and overall interests and well-being of Hong Kong.

It also said there will be no relaunch of political reform before the 2017 election and urged the people to set aside political disputes so the city could focus on economic and livelihood issues.

Paul Yip, professor of the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration, said people must be feeling tired after a year of fighting for democracy and not seeing any positive results.

However, the low turnout doesn’t mean there has been an improvement in governance, Yip said.

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