Organisers of a banned pro-democracy march intended to mark China’s National Day on October 1 are calling on Hongkongers to wear black on the day, as Beijing warned of what it called “terrorist acts” planned for Thursday.
The Civil Human Rights Front, which late Monday lost an appeal against the police ban, said it would place a full page advertisement in pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily on October 1, and called for the wearing of black to show solidarity with 12 Hongkongers detained in China.
The march was intended to reiterate the “five demands” voiced during mass protests last year and urge the authorities to release the 12 Hongkongers detained by China’s coastguard as they tried to flee to Taiwan on a speedboat.
The chairman of the board hearing the appeal, Anthony To, said they believed the march would “seriously threaten” Hong Kong citizens. He cited coronavirus fears and said the organisers had failed to make effective anti-epidemic arrangements.
The Front’s convenor Jimmy Sham accused the government of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to clamp down on expressions of dissent through marches and assemblies.
“During the pandemic, fighting against the epidemic became [Chief Executive] Carrie Lam’s best tool to impose political suppression,” he said.
Sham quoted police Superintendent Cheung Chi-wai as saying the organisers could consider adopting a “registration system” for demonstrators, when the group asked under what circumstances police would allow public processions during the pandemic.
But Sham raised concerns that the government may require Hongkongers to register with their real names to take part in a march. “Our government and police use all kinds of draconian measures to create fear, then use fear to govern Hong Kong.”
A few hours after the appeal result was announced, the government’s Security Bureau declared the march an unauthorised assembly and cautioned against advertising or publicising the event.
“Anyone advertising or publicising the procession, or taking part in it, may violate the law,” it said.
Police will reportedly deploy at least 6,000 officers on the day, following a risk assessment which estimated people would take it to the streets in defiance of the ban.
On Tuesday, China’s liaison office in Hong Kong warned against “terrorist acts” planned on National Day, which coincides this year with the Mid-Autumn Festival. It cited the Fifteenth Night Operation, an online group which the office claimed was instigating people to buy guns, bows and other offensive weapons to attack police.
The Fifteenth Night Operation has said on Telegram it would stage a “non-peaceful demonstration” at night, but did not specify what.
The liaison office said any such unrest would be seen as incitement to subversion, an offence under the new national security law. “What’s more shocking is the extremely small amount of radicals who are instigating the so-called ‘Fifteenth Night Operation’… to launch a terrorist attack on police officers,” it said in a website statement.
It described demands to free the 12 as “absurd,” saying they had crossed the border illegally and must be punished by law.
The Civil Front – which is a coalition of pro-democracy groups – has a long history of organising peaceful demonstrations.
Last September, state-run outlet China Daily claimed “massive terror attacks” would take place in Hong Kong, though no such events unfolded.