The organisers of Hong Kong’s July 1 democracy rally have been told they can gather on Victoria Park’s lawn, two weeks after they revealed that their traditional starting point – the football courts – had been booked by a pro-Beijing group.

However, the police have vetoed the Civil Human Rights Front’s application to gather even more protesters at Causeway Bay’s Great George Street and on East Point Road.

Victoria Park
Victoria Park’s football courts (L) and central lawn (R). Photo: Leisure and Cultural Services Department/Baycrest via Wikimedia Commons.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) told the Front on Wednesday it would also be allowed use of Victoria Park’s bandstand – but not the area around the water fountains.

The parties have not yet agreed on the route of the annual march, said the Front in a press release.

Crowd control

Victoria Park’s six football courts have been granted from late June to early July to the Hong Kong Celebrations Association.

The pro-Beijing group is planning to stage a technology fair to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city’s transfer of sovereignty to China. The LCSD gave it priority because it is registered as a charity.

See also: Organisers of Hong Kong’s annual pro-democracy rally question why gov’t promised venue to pro-Beijing group

At a Wednesday meeting with police, the Front expressed concerns that demonstrators would not be able to depart from Victoria Park with ease.

The police plan to use the park’s water fountain area as a barrier to separate protesters from visitors to the technology exhibition – a proposal that the Front said would further complicate crowd movement.

The 2014 July 1st pro-democracy march
2014 July 1 rally. File photo: HKFP.

In Thursday’s press release, Front convener Au Nok-hin said he understood that Cheng Yiu-tong – chairman of the Celebrations Association – expressed anger about the Victoria Park situation in a closed-door meeting with the media.

“As media representatives also don’t understand why Cheng is so angry, Au can only call on him to control his temper, and deal with the July 1 venue issue rationally and with restraint,” he wrote.

Aside from Great George Street and on East Point Road, the Front has also applied to gather outside Central Library, in an effort to begin the march from multiple points.

The democracy rally has been held on every anniversary of the handover since 2003, when some 500,000 Hongkongers demanded that then-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa step down. President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Hong Kong this July 1 to inaugurate incoming Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.