Last Sunday (1st February) saw the first major pro-democracy rally since the Occupy Movement ended in December. The rally began in Victoria Park and ended with a sharing session at the main stage on Chater road. The procession was carried out peacefully but turnout was less than what the organisers expected.
The organisers, Civil Humans Rights Front (CHRF) announced that more than 13,000 had attended the rally, while police estimate that around 8,800 were in attendance at the peak of the march. The University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme estimates around 12,000 people. CHRF had expected a turnout closer to 50,000 strong.
The theme of the march was “Say no to fake democracy, we want genuine universal suffrage”, a continuation of the demands made since the Umbrella Movement began. Popular slogans included “We want genuine universal suffrage”, “No vetting, real voting”, and “Step down CY Leung”.
“Why bother marching, when all they do is walk around and nothing happens?”
As per past rallies, parties and activists from across the pro-democracy spectrum set up booths along the march to rally support and solicit donations. Notable newcomers included “Progressive Lawyers Group”, mainly consisting of young pro-democracy lawyers, and “We are the future”, a group that grew out of the Umbrella Movement. The group claims they have more than 40 people ready to participate in this years district council race, and will mostly target turf traditionally won by pro-establishment groups.
The march ended with a mass rally at the end, where prominent community leaders shared their experience of “bringing the fight to the community”. The Democratic Party’s Albert Ho revealed that the pan-democratic camp are in talks to bring his resignation forward to March or April, before the vote on the current 2017 elections package in June. This will trigger by-elections in August, setting up a de facto referendum.
Turnout was much less than expected. The organisers had expected about 50,000 but only about one fifth turned up. Daisy Chan Sin-Ying, convenor for CHRF, believes the reasons behind the underwhelming turnout is due to increased cynicism towards this method of protest, many instead calling for civil disobedience. She believes that Hong Kong people are still adamant in the fight for true democracy.
“…the government won’t listen. Taking it to the streets is all we can do.”
An avid supporter of the Occupy Movement who did not march told Harbour Times, “Why bother marching, when all they do is walk around and nothing happens?” However, 66 year old Mr Cheung who participated in the march said, “We want real choice in 2017 but the government won’t listen. Taking it to the streets is all we can do.”
The Government issued a statement in the afternoon stating, “The HKSAR Government calls on all sectors of the community to adopt an accommodating, rational and pragmatic approach, as well as an inclusive attitude to express views, to forge consensus so that 5 million eligible voters can elect the Chief Executive by universal suffrage through ‘one person, one vote’ in 2017.”
A group of around 200 people lead by “localist” group Civic Passion, confronted a pro-police rally held outside Tai Po Market MTR station. The rally, held by Leticia Lee and her group “Justice Alliance”, called to make insulting police officers illegal. Scuffles ensued leaving eight people, including seven police officers, slightly injured. Three people were arrested as a result of the incident.