A Hong Kong human rights group has said that it will be sending observers to monitor police officers during the annual July 1 march this Sunday.
For the first time, the Civil Rights Observer group – established after the Umbrella Movement in 2014 – will send a team of 15 observers to look out for any abuse of power by the police and determine whether officers are acting in accordance with human rights standards and laws.
They will wear white uniforms bearing the name of the organisation and the word “observer” so as to be easily identifiable by the public.
The group said its observers will not interfere with any confrontations or incidents that may occur on the day of the protests. The group will only record its observations and write a report following the event. The observers’ focus will be on whether the police is overly heavy-handed with crowd control and whether they obstruct members of the public from taking part in the march.
On Monday, march organiser Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) – an unrelated group – failed in its appeal to overturn the police’s conditions for the protest. Police gave permission for the march to proceed on the condition that it begins at the Victoria Park lawn.
For two years in a row, Victoria Park’s football pitches – where the march usually starts – were allocated to a pro-Beijing group, and CHRF’s proposal of using the pedestrian zones at East Point Road or Lockhart Road was rejected by the police on the grounds of difficult crowd control.
Police Commissioner Stephen Lo has since warned that participants of the march could potentially be arrested for unlawful assembly if they do not comply with police instructions. Au Nok-hin, pro-democracy lawmaker and deputy convener of the CHRF, said the comments were misleading as the public may think they cannot join the march midway.
Last year, the annual march coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong. Members of pro-democracy parties Demosisto and League of Social Democrats were taken away following a protest on the morning of July 1 at flag raising ceremony at the Golden Bauhinia Square. The League of Social Democrats’ Avery Ng and Figo Chan later claimed that they were assaulted by the police inside police vehicles.