Tens of thousands of protesters took part in a march on Sunday — China’s National Day — to protest against an “authoritarian government” and demand that Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen step down.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

The march was organised by pro-democracy parties Demosisto and the League of Social Democrats, as well as Civil Human Rights Front, Student Fight for Democracy and a support group for the northeast New Territories activists. Organisers say that 40,000 attended, whilst police say 4,300 took part.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

At the starting point of the march at Victoria Park, representatives from organising groups – including League of Social Democrats member Figo Chan – read out letters written by Occupy leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, northeast New Territories protesters Willis Ho and Chu Wai-chung, and others who were jailed last month.

Figo Chan (right). Photo: Karen Cheung/HKFP.

Occupy co-founder Benny Tai also read out a “manifesto against an authoritarian government” ahead of the rally.

Benny Tai. Photo: Karen Cheung/HKFP.

“Even if authoritarianism has already become a reality, we believe that Hong Kong people will not accept this, will not bow down to a dictatorial regime, will not give up any resistance both within, and outside of, the system,” he said.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

University of Hong Kong governing council member Timothy O’Leary, who was amongst those protesting, said there was an “inflated controversy” around the pro-independence banners which had appeared on campuses.  He said another “worrying” development was the justice secretary’s alleged decision to seek tougher sentences for democracy activists such as Joshua Wong, despite them having already severed community service orders.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“It’s important to continue having demonstrations, to show that despite a lot of –  I suppose – disillusionment after the Umbrella Movement, to show that people still do have enough hope that they will go out on the streets and make their opinions heard,” he told HKFP.

“No to political persecution” and “Rimsky Yuen step down.” Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Also at the march, ousted Youngspiration lawmaker Baggio Leung told HKFP: “Over the past year, everyone could see that over a hundred activists are facing long judicial processes, or have already lost their freedom and are currently in prison because they were fighting for democracy and freedom in Hong Kong. I really hope everyone will show concern towards these activists.”

Kwong Chun-lung from Spark Alliance, a support group for jailed activists, said that they hope to assist the activists who are not in the spotlight, such as those involved in the Mong Kok unrests last year.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Their current focus is on supporting the 10 defendants charged with rioting in providing them with lunch on court days, medical and transportation subsidies.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Some demonstrators also called for the sacking, or jailing, or lawmaker Junius Ho. At an anti-independence rally earlier last month, rural leader Tsang Shu-wo said that pro-independence activists should be “killed.” Ho had shouted “without mercy” in response.

Photo: Karen Cheung/HKFP.

Outside the Legislative Council complex at the protest end point, pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said she would put forward a motion at the House Committee of the Legislative Council to censure Ho’s remarks.

Yau Wai-ching. national day democracy march rally protest

“We must disqualify him as a lawmaker,” she said.

On Sunday morning, Demosisto activists were also pulled away by security officers and injured during a protest at the flag-raising ceremony.

Photo: Demosisto.

In response to the afternoon’s demonstration, a government spokesperson said: “The DoJ [Department of Justice] has all along been handling all criminal cases in accordance with the applicable law, relevant evidence and the Prosecution Code. No political consideration is being taken into account at all. The allegations of political prosecution or persecution are entirely unfounded. Not only do these allegations ignore the evidence accepted by the court or undisputed evidence in these cases, they also disregard the decisions of the court.”

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.