Police have banned Hong Kong’s annual May Day rally citing public health concerns in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a press release on Friday, the force voiced objection to next Friday’s Labour Day march organised by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions application.

may day rally
Photo: PH Yang.

The group said on Facebook on Wednesday that they were planning to march in favour of workers’ rights whilst respecting social distancing rules enacted to suppress the covid-19 pandemic.

Inspired by a pro-democracy demonstration in Israel, marchers would have proceeded in groups of four, as per the current regulation, the group wrote. “It complies with the ban on public gatherings and does not violate the public order ordinance. Police have no grounds to oppose against it,” they said.

The alliance has been organising Labour Day march annually but local media cited a police source earlier in the week saying that the event would be banned. Organisers noted in their post that there would be “some action” nonetheless.

“A lot of us are waiting for a march to express opinions. Police should not be in our way,” it read, adding that Hongkongers wanted to speak out about coronavirus-related economic measures.

The police said the event was a high-risk activity: “Police have grounds to believe that the activities do not only increase the risk of infecting Covid-19 by participants and other people, but also pose serious threat to the lives and health of all citizens, jeopardizing public safety and affecting the rights of others.”

Key dates

Pro-democracy protesters are also applying to march in Kowloon on May 10 to urge Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down. Social distancing measures are set to expire on May 7.

Other key protest dates are also on the horizon, with the Tiananmen Massacre anniversary vigil scheduled for June 4. The anniversary of the 2019 anti-extradition law protests comes less than a fortnight later, and July 1 is – traditionally – the date of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy march.

First detected in Hubei, China, over 2.7 million people globally have been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 191,000 have died from the SARS-like disease according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.