The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the group that organized the millions-strong citizens’ marches in Hong Kong last month in the wake of the government’s extradition bill, said on Tuesday that it aims to stage another mass rally this weekend despite facing resistance from the police.
Rejecting calls from the police to desist from fresh protest action at this point in time when social tensions are running high, the pro-democracy group said it will keep pursuing plans for a rally either on Saturday or Sunday.
While the event will remain on the agenda, some details and arrangements may be tweaked, it said.
The group originally planned to assemble people on Tim Mei Avenue in Admiralty on Sunday night to put pressure on the government over the issues surrounding the extradition bill.
However, its application for a letter of no objection is yet to approved by the police.
After CHRF met with representatives from the police on Tuesday, the two sides could not reach a consensus on the planned rally as police expressed concerns about public safety.
According to CHRF Convenor Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, the police requested that the planned rally be delayed to August when authorities hope the social atmosphere in Hong Kong will be much less heated.
Sham, however, argued that the situation may not be different in the city even in August as public anger will remain as the government refuses to accept the protesters’ demands.
However, he suggested that the event can be changed to a march from Causeway Bay to Admiralty or the area around Chater Road in Central, from the original plan of rally on Tim Mei Avenue in Admiralty.
CHRF representatives met with the police on Wednesday to discuss the issues surrounding the planned event.
In an update, the group said it is confident about getting a letter of no objection for a Sunday march that will begin at 3 pm. The march will begin at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and end at Charter Road in Central.
The CHRF will hold a press conference shortly to announce details of the event.
In response to media inquiries, the police earlier said communication on the matter is still underway and that decisions will be taken in line with the current situation. A spokesperson did not respond when questioned about issuance of a letter of no objection.
Sham admitted that the CHRF can do nothing about it if the police end up deciding not to issue the letter, but warned that if authorities proceed in such manner, it would be tantamount to trying to suppress public opinions.
The activist reiterated that the government should not hide itself behind the police force but should respond as soon as possible to the five demands made by the public, including complete withdrawal of the now-suspended extradition bill and setting up an independent inquiry into police conduct.
Meanwhile, Ann Chiang Lai-wan, a lawmaker from the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who had earlier urged police in an open letter to refuse permission for protest marches, told a radio program on Tuesday that the violent clashes and incidents such as the Legco break-in show that the demonstrations have deviated from their original purpose.
Police should suspend approval for fresh mass rallies to ensure that social order can be protected, Chiang said, adding the individual rights cannot override social interests.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin, who had once been CHRF convenor, disagreed, saying a letter of no objection is designed to make sure that people can enjoy the basic freedom of lawful assembly.
That freedom represents a bottom line that should be defended by a civil society, he said.
In related news, a spokesman for the Security Bureau on Tuesday dismissed a media report that suggested that the government was studying the possibility of declaring a curfew.
“With regard to public processions and meetings, the government will continue to follow the existing mechanism requiring notification to the police and the Letter of No Objection. Apart from this, the government has no other plans,” the spokesman said.
A media report on Monday claimed that the government was studying plans to ban protests in the city, including the feasibility of the Chief Executive in Council declaring a curfew by invoking Article 17(E) of the Public Order Ordinance.
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