OC kept up the pressure on the weekend with a fairly well organised rally targeted at the police. One sideshow raised the question about how the police will handle those who feel they have to make a more radical display, outside the organisers’ ambit. And a triad tattooed arm made a cameo.
On Saturday, around 200 protesters gathered in front of the police Headquarters in Wanchai to state their intention to commit to civil disobedience as a means of pursuing civil nomination. The rally, titled “Continued Peaceful Disobedience, Persist for Civil Nomination,” was jointly organised by the Civil Human Rights Front and the Hong Kong Federation of Students.
Speakers who took the stage addressed several hot topics with respect to the ensuing political reform. This included the increasing threat towards the Occupy Central (OC) movement by the Alliance for Peace and Democracy group led by Robert Chow Yung. Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming, OC leader Chan Kin-man, and student leader Chow Wing-hong all took their turns expressing how the anti-OC campaign has used “universal values” like “suffrage”, “peace”, or “order” to attract signatures and hide its true intention of framing the OC movement as violent and disorderly. Chan took the opportunity to thank those who were arrested for having made a great sacrifice and behaving in a peaceful manner throughout the ordeal.
Leung “Long hair” Kwok-hung (GC – NT East), took the stage to challenge the controversial comments made earlier that day by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Cheung Tak-keung, who said he “did not see any problem” with off-duty officers signing the anti-OC campaign. Leung asked if the police would offer off-duty officers the same amount of support if they personally supported the OC movement instead, inviting cheers from the crowd in agreement.
To solidify their intention to pursue peaceful civil disobedience, Professor Timothy O’Leary, head of the School of Humanities at University of Hong Kong, was invited to speak on the legitimacy of the student actions in the name of civil obedience. Professor O’Leary recently responded in an interview to CY Leung’s comment that no grey area existed between upholding the law and illegal activity. He reiterated his point on the day, pointing out that those break the law in the name of civil disobedience respect the law more than anyone, and deserve respect for trying to make it better, including those who sat in at Chater Road on July 2.
Several members of the 511 arrested following the sit-in also took the stage to speak on their experiences, including Uncle Wong. Over 80 years old, Uncle Wong went viral on the internet when news caught out that he participated in the sit-in and was arrested with the rest. He said that he felt an urge to support the youngsters fighting for democracy and stayed that night. He also declared he would participate in a similar protest if it ever came to that and had no fear of ending up in jail.
The rally was wrapped up when participants tore up faux warning letters prepared by the organisers in front of the media as a symbolic gesture to commit to civil obedience. While voices on stage have mentioned sit-ins, and strikes from workers and students, how it may be carried has still yet to be announced. What the speakers have reiterated again and again, is that August will be a critical month and supporters should be prepared.
Despite peaceful civil disobedience being preached on stage, an individual incident happened away from the crowd. One particular lady was surrounded by a group of policemen as she attempted to light a piece of paper on fire, claiming she had the freedom to protest in such a way. The main crowd seemed to be oblivious to the episode, and it ended when an officer extinguished the fire as soon as it was lit. It does draw the question, while Occupy Central is promoting peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience, do they have control when curious incidents like this occur on a much larger scale?
(Ed note – our correspondent, when taking pictures, inadvertently photographed a heavily tattooed arm, triad style, also filming the woman. Triad journalists maybe – or something else.)