A protest appeal board has upheld the conditions set by the police over the starting point for the July 1 pro-democracy march, following a challenge by organisers.

The Civil Human Rights Front earlier received a notice of no objection from the police, under the condition that the annual protest began at Victoria Park’s lawn. But the organiser said the venue in Causeway Bay was not suitable as it had a narrow entrance.

The larger football pitches at the park, which were usually used as the starting point of the march, were handed to a pro-Beijing group – both this year and last year – to celebrate the Handover anniversary. The Civil Human Rights Front coalition then proposed using the pedestrian zones at East Point Road or Lockhart Road as the starting point, but the police said crowd control would be difficult.

July 1 march
July 1 march in 2017 at the Victoria Park lawn. Photo: inmediahk.net.

The Front’s appeal to the Security Bureau’s Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions was rejected on Monday.

Chairman Pang Kin-kee said the board unanimously believes that were the march to kick off from East Point Road or Lockhart Road, it would have a negative impact on the safety and road usage rights of other members of the public.

stephen lo
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo. File Photo: Stand News.

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo defended the conditions on Saturday and said he “absolutely respects” civilians’ freedom to take part in protests and freedom of speech.

“We only hope to protect their safety and that of other members of the public. Victoria Park is a more suitable starting point for large-scale events. We again call on the organisers not to ask the public to gather or begin the march at East Point Road,” he said, adding that it will affect the protesters who set off from Victoria Park and create confusion.

Lo previously warned that participants of the march could potentially be arrested for unlawful assembly if they do not comply with police instructions.

Au Nok-hin
Au Nok-hin. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Au Nok-hin, pro-democracy lawmaker and deputy convener of the Front, told RTHK that Lo’s comments were misleading, as they gave the impression that protesters wishing to join the march could not do so midway at various locations.

Au said that they will “cooperate to a low extent” and that there will be a small number of demonstrators at Victoria Park’s lawn. He also said he believes that the police will increase manpower at the East Point location and urged protesters to join from Hysan Place.

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.