The Hong Kong government has criticised protesters who chanted “disrespectful” slogans at Sunday’s July 1 democracy march.

“[C]hanting slogans which disrespect ‘one country’ and disregard the constitutional order or which are sensational and misleading was not in line with Hong Kong’s overall interests and would undermine its development,” a press release on Sunday read.

july 1 democracy rally protest march
Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The One Country, Two Systems principle states that Hong Kong’s political and economic systems will remain unchanged for 50 years after its 1997 transfer of sovereignty from Britain to China.

The rally – marking 21 years since the 1997 Handover of the British colony to China – saw thousands march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to the Central Government Offices to push for greater democracy. While organisers put the turnout at 50,000, police put the figure at 9,800 – the lowest on record.

During the march, protesters chanted “end one-party dictatorship,” “Hong Kong people, keep going,” and “reject the deterioration of Hong Kong.”

See also: Hong Kong’s democracy march wraps up peacefully after police and organisers grapple over starting point

In April, Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to guarantee that Hongkongers who chant for an end to one party rule would be safe from prosecution. China Liaison Office Director Wang Zhimin had earlier said that it was incorrect to say that China was a “one-party dictatorship,” since it was not mentioned in the Chinese constitution.

YouTube video

In Sunday’s press release, the government spokesperson added: “Since the return to the Motherland, Hong Kong has continued to enjoy prosperity and stability, and maintained its status as international financial, transportation and trade centres, thanks to the strong support of the country and Hong Kong’s inherent institutional strengths,” the spokesperson said.

They said the government aimed to provide job prospects to local people, under the mottos “we care,” “we listen” and “we act.”

july 1 handover bauhinia square flags
Photo: GovHK.

At a ceremony on Sunday morning, Chief Executive Carrie Lam claimed Hongkongers had more trust of the government: “After a year of leading the government to demonstrate a new style of governance, perform new roles and implement a new fiscal philosophy, I have greater confidence in Hong Kong… As long as we remain focused and stand united, I am sure that the best is yet to come for Hong Kong.”

A Beijing puppet

During Sunday’s rally, protesters said that they were sceptical about the government’s promises.

People’s Power lawmaker Ray Chan told HKFP: “The chief executive, Carrie Lam, said this morning that the most important thing is the one country’s interest. But the core values of Hong Kong people are freedom, democracy are more important. As the chief executive, she should protect our rights and sacrifice for our interests.”

Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui also told HKFP that Lam was “just another person sent from Beijing to rule Hong Kong,” and described the first year under her administration as a “decline in many aspects” of the city.

Dozens of pro-establishment counter-protesters also the streets of Causeway Bay on Sunday as the democracy march passed, chanting: “the Communist party is the most democratic, we support one-party leadership.”

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.