Four members of League of Social Democrats (LSD) marched towards the Wan Chai Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday morning to protest against Beijing’s overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system. It is the first demonstration since the decision was handed down last week.
Top Beijing officials are hosting a three-day event that began on Monday at the convention centre, to solicit — behind closed doors — views from a thousand individuals on the implementation details for the city’s electoral overhaul. Guests who attended the event included pro-Beijing figures and politicians, and Hong Kong government officials.
In March, 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.
Holding a fake ballot box and a banner, the group marched from Hennessy Road to Central Plaza opposite the convention centre and shouted slogans to call for immediate universal suffrage in Hong Kong, the end of small-circle leadership elections and the release of all political prisoners. “People and crowds are the real heroes,” a banner read.
The group was searched and surrounded by over a dozen police officers at the start of the protest. At least four police vehicles were on the scene, according to a video livestream posted on LSD’s Facebook page.
Hong Kong currently limits social gatherings to groups of four, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Four LSD members were earlier handed a 14-day suspended sentence for violating social gathering rules, when eight activists took turns in groups of four to protest outside the government offices.
“We demand the Chinese Communist Party withdraw the National People’s Congress’ decision, cancel election vetting mechanisms, abolish small-circle elections, and hold fair and open elections,” LSD party chief Raphael Wong said.
Wong also said state media claimed over 70 per cent of Hongkongers support the electoral overhaul, although the democrats swept 388 seats in the 2019 District Council elections with about 60 per cent of the votes.
An online poll by pro-Beijing group Citizens Alliance HK with about 1,000 individuals said the NPC’s decision was supported by 80 per cent of the respondents, while another online petition has recorded about 700,000 signatures in the past few days. Citizen Alliance HK’s convenor and company director is Susanna Chiu – former head of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants.