The organiser of the annual July 1 pro-democracy march has changed the event’s slogan in order “to attract more people to join.” It denied that it was out of fear of being linked to Hong Kong’s pro-independence movement.

The current slogan is: “One Country, Two Systems, a lie of 20 years; Democratic self-government, retake Hong Kong.”

Au Nok-hin, the convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, confirmed that it was changed from the original slogan: “One Country, Two Systems, a lie of 20 years; Chinese Communist Party leaders, get out of Hong Kong.”

democracy july 1
The 2016 July 1st democracy rally. Photo: PH Yang.

He told HKFP that, at the meeting deciding upon the slogan, the original concern was about the potential visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Hong Kong on July 1 and the intervention of the China Liaison Office, Beijing’s official body in the city. They wished to express directly that “if they could not implement One Country, Two Systems well, then they are not welcomed in Hong Kong.”

He said some members of the Front, which comprises of around 50 groups, opposed the original slogan a day or two after it was decided.

They included political parties such as the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre, the Democratic Party, the Civic Party and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – around ten in total. But Au would not disclose who the other groups were.

Independence concerns 

Au dismissed descriptions in a report by news site HK01, which said the concerns were over the original slogan being potentially seen as pro-independence.

“The groups believe the theme should express what do we want, hence the revision to ‘Democratic self-government, retake Hong Kong,’” he said. “The reasons [for groups] to demand a revision also included concerns over an inability to unite the majority of the public to join.”

“Whether it would be seen as [supporting] Hong Kong independence, or offending the Chinese Communist Party – these were not the focus of our concerns. Our concerns are whether the theme can unite the majority of the public to participate.”

Au Nok-hin
Au Nok-hin. File Photo: Facebook/Alex Leung.

Au also dismissed criticism that the current slogan was milder than the original.

“I have been expecting that pro-Beijing writers and the media will still try in every way to label us,” he said. “To the Front, Hong Kong should have democracy and a high degree of autonomy – I believe many friends supporting democracy feel the same.”

Au asked for understanding as the Front is a diverse platform.

“The applications for street stands [along the march route] include those from moderates to localists – it is the right of all to express their demands,” he said. “I don’t see the Front opposing anyone who brings ‘Chinese Communist Party leaders, get out of Hong Kong’ [banners] to the streets.”

zhang protest hong kong democracy
Photo: Todd Darling.

A similar slogan was used by the League of Social Democrats when state leader Zhang Dejiang visited Hong Kong last year, when they demanded Zhang “get out of Hong Kong.” The League does not support Hong Kong independence.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.