By South China Morning Post
VETERAN opposition activists, including Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai, have announced plans to defy a police ban and organise a July 1 march to protest against the new national security law, which is expected to take effect that same day.
The Tuesday announcement came just hours after Beijing’s top legislative body passed the controversial law, which targets acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.
For the first time since the 1997 handover, police on Saturday rejected an application by the Civil Human Rights Front to hold a march protesting the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty. The force cited public health risks related to the coronavirus pandemic and violence at past rallies organised by the front.
Sources told the Post on Monday that more than 4,000 riot police officers would be on standby across the city from Tuesday evening in anticipation of potential unrest, while the area around the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, the site of the ceremony marking the handover, had been placed on lockdown.
But Figo Chan, deputy convenor of the front, said he would press ahead with the march in his capacity as a private citizen, joining hands with Wu and independent lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, along with a group of district councillors to include League of Social Democrats veteran Bull Tsang Kin-shing.
“We hope all Hongkongers can take to the streets to oppose the national security law,” Chan said at a noon press conference. “I know it is difficult for Beijing to withdraw it, but we have to stand up and voice out.”
“We are aware of the risks of being prosecuted. But we insist on taking the lead, as we want to tell Hongkongers not to fear. If we stay silent because of fear, our freedoms will be undermined for sure.”
They called on people to gather at East Point Road in Causeway Bay at 2pm and start marching to Central at 3pm.
When asked if they would remind participants not to shout independence slogans or wave certain flags with the national security law expected to be in force, Chan said Hongkongers still enjoy freedom of speech and that organisers would only call on people to remain peaceful.
The major slogans of the march would be “oppose the national security law” and “five demands, not one less”, he added.
The five demands first emerged during last year’s anti-government protest movement, which was sparked in June by opposition to the now-withdrawn extradition bill. They include calls for an independent inquiry into alleged abuse of force by police and the implementation of universal suffrage.
Wu, who is seeking re-election, said he understood the risks of being arrested or even disqualified from running for office, but said that was not his primary consideration.
“We would like to see people keep using peaceful ways to demonstrate their will to fight to the end,” he said.
The front is attending an appeal board hearing where the police ban will be challenged on Tuesday afternoon.
Top: The July 1, 2019 democracy march in Hong Kong. Photo: Doctorho (CC BY 2.0)