06/27/2020, 12.45
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For the first time in 17 years, police ban Hong Kong’s 1 July march

by Paul Wang

Police justify the ban by the need to enforce pandemic-related social distancing, and to prevent vandalism. Past marches organised by the Civil Human Rights Front have always been peaceful. On 1 July 2003, 500,000 people met to demand the scraping of a proposed security bill. Now Beijing is preparing to impose its own law on Hong Kong.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – For the first time in 17 years, police have banned the annual pro-democracy march held in Hong Kong since 2003.

The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the event’s organiser, explained that under COVID-19-related health and safety regulations, gatherings of more than 50 people are not allowed. The authorities also fear violence and vandalism, which have occurred during recent protests.

In a letter to CHRF convenor Jimmy Sham, police say that they have “have cautiously assessed the risks and believe that some participants of this public assembly and public procession may depart from the planned rally location and marching route and violently vandalise buildings.”

It goes on to say that some participants “may pose a severe threat to the safety of other participants, citizens, journalists and police officers and you do not have the capacity to control their acts.”

For more than a year, Hong Kong has been the scene of various protests. They began with the demand to cancel a proposed extradition bill, but over time morphed into a movement for full democracy in the territory.

Extremist groups and the police have engaged in violence. However, the actions organised by CHRF have always been peaceful. The most celebrated took place a year ago with more than two million people in attendance.

At present, tensions are running high in Hong Kong because Beijing has decided to adopt a national security law for Hong Kong that has been rejected by many sectors of society since it would end the rule of law in the territory.

According to the pro-democracy movement, the upcoming ban is already a sign of the coming repression even before the law is passed.

This year, the traditional memorial vigil for the people killed in Tiananmen was also banned for "health reasons". But tens of thousands of people showed up anyway.

A march on 1 July would be a challenge to Beijing and to its national security law. On 1 July 2003, more than half a million took to the streets to protest against a public safety bill proposed by the Hong Kong government.

Eventually, the then Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was forced to put off the bill indefinitely. He later resigned. The current Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has denied political considerations in enforcing social distancing.

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