Police have denied an application for a march in Yuen Long on Saturday, saying the decision was made after considering multiple factors, including public safety, traffic and crowd management, and social sentiment.
But the applicant, Max Chung kin-ping, said the march will go ahead despite the police decision.
A police commander in charge of the district, meanwhile, said officers will be out in full force to prevent “any sort of attack on the locals”.
Chung on Tuesday applied for a letter of no objection for the “Reclaim Yuen Long” rally to denounce the violent incident at the Yuen Long MTR Station on Sunday, when white-clad gangsters armed with sticks and pipes attacked passengers and journalists coming from an anti-extradition bill demonstration. At least 45 people, including ordinary commuters, were injured.
In a “letter of objection” issued on Thursday afternoon, police said they have “reason to believe that there would be violent physical clashes between protesters and indigenous villagers”, thereby posing a safety risk to people, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Police also cited other recent developments, including one involving a lawmaker, whose office and parents’ graves were vandalized.
They also noted the villagers’ reactions and the threatening remarks circulating on social media.
Since Yuen Long is a densely populated area, the protest will very likely seriously undermine residents’ rights and freedoms, adding that the destination of the march, Yuen Long MTR Station, is close to several indigenous villages, police added.
The route of the planned march will include the Light Rail tracks, above which there is an overhead cable. This will pose danger to the marchers, especially if they are careless, police said.
The letter also said the Shui Pin Tsuen Playground is not an ideal place as the starting point of the march because the pavements are too narrow. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department also did not give its approval.
The organizers would not be able to control the participants’ behavior, given the serious clashes following recent demonstrations, and the “social atmosphere”, it added.
In banning the march, police cited several sections of the Public Order Ordinance.
After receiving the letter, Chung filed an appeal against the decision. A hearing was set to be held on Friday afternoon.
While admitting that he was not optimistic about the result of his appeal, Chung said he for one would be marching regardless of the police decision, RTHK reported.
Anthony Tsang Ching-fo, acting commander of New Territories North Region, said although the application said only about 369 people would join the march, police estimated that the turnout could be more than 10,000, based on information from social media.
The streets where the march plans to pass as well as the venue of the rally would definitely not be able to accommodate such a huge crowd, and clashes are likely to take place, he said.
Tsang said police would be criticized for ignoring public opinion if they were to approve the application as about 1,700 citizens had opposed the march as of Thursday.
Police also received at least 13 letters from Yuen Long community leaders expressing their concerns about the demonstration. The Yuen Long District Council is also opposed while heads of local tertiary institutions have urged their students to refrain from joining the protest.
Nonetheless, Tsang said: “There will be deployment like this to prevent any sort of attack on the locals and there will possibly be deployments for general policing as well as the transport arrangement to prevent any sort of disturbance of the transport within the area.”
Democratic Party chairman and lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said banning the march would set a very bad precedent as it would deprive people of their right to hold demonstrations as provided under the Basic Law.
Chung said in a radio program on Friday that he could consider filing a judicial review if his appeal failed.
He also said he was not concerned about the turnout for Saturday’s march, noting that he would march alone if needs be.
He said he won’t call on people to join the rally, adding that he cannot control their decision and behavior.
Separately, a peaceful rally was being held at the Arrival Hall of Terminal 1 of the Hong Kong International Airport to ask the government to respond to the public’s five demands, including the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill and the establishment of an independent commission to probe whether police used excessive force in recent clashes with protesters.
The Airport Authority said previously that the Airport Emergency Centre would be activated to ensure smooth operations at the airport.
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