July 1 march draws second lowest turnout on record

July 03, 2017 10:54
About 60,000 people joined the annual pro-democracy march on July 1, about half  of the crowd seen last year. Photo: Reuters

About 60,000 people joined the annual pro-democracy march on July 1, about half of the crowd seen last year, making it the second lowest turnout on record and only exceeding the one in 2005, when there were less than 30,000 protesters, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Police estimated the crowd at 14,500 at the peak, the lowest turnout in 15 years, while the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Program said it was between 27,000 and 35,000.

Organizer Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) called the turnout acceptable. Its convenor Au Nok-hin said some citizens apparently wanted to take a wait-and-see attitude towards the new administration, and that’s why they chose not to join the march this year.

Still, Au praised those who attended this year's march, saying they displayed courage in the face the government's moves against those who participated in the 2014 Occupy protests.

The theme for this year's march was “Reclaim Hong Kong with democracy and autonomy 20 years after implementing One Country, Two Systems”.

Unlike in the previous years, participants assembled on the lawns of Victoria Park in Causeway Bay since the football pitch was being used by the Hong Kong Celebration Association for a science exhibition.

The march started at around 3:30 p.m., led by Lam Wing-kee, one of the five booksellers who went missing last year and detained in the mainland for eight months before he was released and returned to Hong Kong, and pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu, whose case resulted in the imprisonment of seven police officers convicted of assaulting him.

Protesters carried signs saying Beijing's implementation of the “one country, two systems” policy has caused Hong Kong to move backwards, and demanding that Chinese rights activist Liu Xiaobo and his wife be allowed to seek medical treatment overseas.

Some marchers carried banners asking Beijing’s Liaison Office to stay out of Hong Kong affairs.

The CHRF decided to cancel a planned rally outside the government headquarters in Admiralty because of the rain, and the march ended at about 7 p.m.

In response to the protest, newly sworn-in Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she respected people’s freedom of speech and promised to accurately relay the public's views to the central government since that is part of her responsibilities.

She added that there was no need for her to ask Beijing to release Liu as the demand has been clearly made by the public.

Separately, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported that most pan-democratic parties raised less funds during the march than they did last year.

The amount raised by the League of Social Democrats rose HK$80,000 to HK$508,000 and topped those raised by other groups, but the Civic Party only raised HK$260,000, down from last year's HK$441,000.

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