Police gear up for June 9 protest and much more

May 31, 2019 13:38
Demonstrators hold yellow umbrellas in a protest again the government's proposed extradition bill on April 28. Authorities are preparing for more such rallies by various groups in the next couple of weeks.  Photo: Reuters

Even as Beijing throws its full weight behind the extradition law amendment plan, the Hong Kong government continues to face mounting calls from society to shelve the legislative initiative.

Apart from the pan-dems, the business sector and foreign consuls, the alumni of several universities and the alma mater of some high-ranking government officials recently voiced their concerns and drew up online petitions urging the administration to halt its push for a new law.

Despite the huge public outcry, authorities have refused to budge an inch over the issue. Amid this situation, one thing is almost for certain: public sentiments and anger will escalate further, likely boosting the turnout at the June 9 rally being organized by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF).

As such, according to police sources, law enforcement officials are gearing up for the demonstration and making preparations on the same scale as they would do normally for the annual July 1 pro-democracy protests.

Meanwhile, it is also widely expected that the Legislative Council Complex could become another battleground on June 12, when the legislature is scheduled to resume second reading of the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019.

Although the police are yet to receive any notification of a public meeting, it is believed that there will be quite a number of groups gathering outside the Legco building to protest on that day.

As far as the June 4 candlelight vigil that is organized annually by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China is concerned, the League of Social Democrats (LSD) made a surprise move regarding its night-time procession after the candlelight vigil.

Members of the LSD routinely march peacefully towards Beijing’s Liaison Office after the event to chant slogans and call for vindication of the 1989 pro-democracy campaign in the mainland.

In the past, the police never forcibly intervened in the party's June 4 night-time procession, apart from warning the protesters that the procession was unauthorized and that it violates the Public Order Ordinance.

The LSD, on its part, has in the past seven to eight years never discussed with the police in regard to the night-time procession.

However, to the authorities’ surprise, the League decided to do it by the book this year, and applied on May 21 for a Letter of No Objection (LONO). The party estimates that around a thousand people will take part in the procession.

The LSD’s sudden eagerness to play by the rules this time is said to have aroused suspicions among some in the police, who suspect the party may be trying to test the boundaries on what it can get away with in relation to the march.

The party's former lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, however, dismissed the police speculation as unnecessary, saying they were applying for the LONO this time only because they wanted to make the procession participants feel more reassured, and nothing more.

Word has it that after internal discussions and scrutiny, the police are likely to approve the LSD’s application and issue the LONO within this week.

After this column was published, a media article suggested that the LONO may have been issued on May 30. 

The police should have no issue in relation to the LSD’s night-time procession on June 4 this year because it is scheduled to begin at roughly 10 pm, way after the evening rush hour, which means the impact on road traffic would be not huge.

Also, there is the fact that the LSD protesters have remained largely well-behaved over the years during their annual night-time procession. Hence, the police’s expected decision to give the rally the green light.

This is an updated version of an article that appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 29

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.