Hundreds of people, undeterred by hot weather, joined a democracy march in Hong Kong on Sunday ahead of the June 4 vigil to commemorate victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
According to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which organizes the annual June candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, about 1,100 people joined the march this year ahead of the 29th anniversary of the Beijing massacre.
The turnout was a little more than that seen in 2017, when attendance fell to a decade-low.
According to police, about 610 people took part in the rally yesterday afternoon.
The estimates of the organizer as well as the police marked the third lowest turnout in the past 10 years, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Despite relatively low turnout, Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the Alliance, said he was gratified to see so many people participate amid the scorching temperature.
He added that he believes the candlelight vigil to be held next week will draw tens of thousands in attendance.
Sunday’s march began at 3 pm from Southorn Playground in Wan Chai and ended at Beijing’s liaison office in Western District, with participants holding banners and chanting slogans.
Among those who participated were Democratic Party chairman and lawmaker Wu Chi-wai and another party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan, and Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit.
Observers looking for students in the crowd spotted only a few people from the Department of Social Work of Hong Kong Baptist University. The thin attendance of students once again indicated that young people have become less enthusiastic about taking part in the march compared to the past.
Besides urging Beijing to release jailed human rights activists and Lu Xia, the under-house-detention spouse of the late dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, the main slogan chanted by marchers this year was “end one-party dictatorship”.
Tam Yiu-chung, the Hong Kong member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), China’s top parliamentary decision-making body, said in March after he was elected that people who call for an end to one-party dictatorship may be disqualified from future Legislative Council elections as they would possibly be found in breach of the national constitution.
Ho, a former Democratic Party lawmaker and a lawyer by profession, insisted that “end one-party dictatorship” has been one of the Alliance’s five operational goals and that the group will continue to chant the slogan.
The warning against those who chant the slogan is legally baseless, Ho said, adding that attempt to intimidate Hongkongers through warnings of legal consequences is despicable.
Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, who is also a standing committee member of the Alliance, said he does not fear at all. Had he been afraid, he would not have been in the crowd chanting the slogan, Wan said.
The rally ended peacefully outside the building of the liaison office in the early evening, with the organizer, under police watch, distributing “end one-party dictatorship” stickers to the participants and slapping the stickers onto to the building’s plaque and fence before the crowd dispersed.
When asked by reporters as to whether chanting the slogan would be deemed breach of the constitution, Wang Zhenmin, the legal chief of the liaison office, did not offer any direct comment, merely describing it as an “old problem”.
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