A pro-democracy march on Oct. 1, China’s National Day, saw a turnout that was about a third of the size seen last year and ended with brief clashes that injured three security guards at the government headquarters in Admiralty.
Organizer Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) said about 1,500 people joined the protest on Monday, compared with 4,300 last year, while police estimated the crowd at 1,250 at the peak, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The turnout was within expectations, CHRF convenor Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit said.
During the march, protesters expressed fears that the government may soon enact Article 23 of the Basic Law, which deals with national security issues, and impair freedom of speech in Hong Kong. They cited the banning of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) on Sept. 24, the first political organization to be outlawed since the 1997 handover.
The activists also bewailed the series of construction scandals involving MTR’s Shatin-to-Central line, which they said showed poor governance by the administration.
Carrying signs and chanting slogans, the protesters, including members from several pro-democracy parties, started from East Point Road at 3 p.m. and marched toward the government headquarters, with members of some groups advocating Hong Kong independence joining them at the Southorn Playground in Wan Chai.
As the crowd arrived at the destination, some of them tried to get into the East Wing Forecourt of the Central Government Offices, known as Civic Square.
But a protester with a placard that read “Hong Kong would become China if it doesn’t become independent” was prevented from entering by security guards, leading to clashes, RTHK reported.
Three security guards were sent to hospital after they were injured in the chaos, while the protester with the placard in question was able to enter the Civic Square with the help of other protesters.
In a statement following the incident, the government expressed regret over the acts of some participants, who ignored the advice of security guards, three of whom were injured and sent to hospital.
Independence of Hong Kong runs counter to the successful implementation of “one country, two systems” principle, the Basic Law, as well as the long-term interest of Hong Kong society as a whole, according to the statement.
The government stressed that advocating independence undermines the HKSAR’s constitutional order and warned that it would disallow such activities at the Civic Square.
CHRF’s Sham said march organizers had been given permission to use the venue for a post-march assembly.
Sham said banning a protester with a pro-independence placard from entering the Civic Square was unprecedented, adding that it is unacceptable for the administration to “draw a new red line”.
He said CHRF has never supported the idea of independence, and he does not think Monday’s march was intentionally hijacked by pro-independence advocates.
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