One of Hong Kong’s last active pro-democracy parties the League of Social Democrats (LSD) has said some members received phone calls from national security police asking if they had plans to hold activities on Saturday, China’s National Day.

Chan Po-ying
Chan Po-ying, chairperson of the League of Social Democrats speaking outside the District Court on September 1, 2021. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Chan Po-ying, chairperson of the LSD, told HKFP on Wednesday that she had received a call from a national security police officer warning the group not to do anything on the “sensitive date.”

She said that the party had already decided that, unlike previous years, it would not be organising any activities on the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Before the Covid-19 pandemic and the enactment of the national security law in 2020, rallies and demonstrations were often held on October 1 in Hong Kong.

“We have assessed the situation… the law is very ambiguous. Even if we abide by the Covid-19 group gathering limits and the rules under the Public Order Ordinance, we don’t know whether they could use other laws to arrest us, like sedition,” Chan said.

The LSD’s external vice-chairperson Dickson Chau said national security police also contacted him at around 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

“They began with some friendly greetings, then asked if the LSD would do anything on October 1,” Chau told HKFP. “They also asked me if any other groups would. I said I didn’t know, I hadn’t heard.”

national day 2022
A banner marking the 73rd anniversary of China’s founding. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“They didn’t say not to hold any activities, or that it would be illegal to under the national security law,” he said. “But they were very concerned about whether we had plans.”

Chan said that at least five members of the party had received calls from national security police asking similar questions.

The LSD is one of Hong Kong’s only pro-democracy parties that continues to speak out, accepting media interviews and occasionally holding street booths. In recent years, on October 1, members of the group marched towards Golden Bauhinia Square – outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai – to voice their political demands.

Saturday marks 73 years since the formal establishment of the People’s Republic of China. The upcoming anniversary will be the first time in years that the group does not march.

Last year, dozens of police officers surrounded four members of the party – abiding by Covid-19 gathering rules – as they did the annual walk.

league social democrats october 1 national day march
League of Social Democrats march on October 1, 2021. File Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The group called for the release of political prisoners in Hong Kong, including the 47 democrats charged under the national security law in connection with unofficial primary elections in July 2020.

‘More and more narrow’

This is not the first time that national security police have cautioned the LSD to lay low on key dates. Ahead of July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule, police searched the homes of LSD members and warned them not to hold any protest activities.

Former LSD chairman Avery Ng told HKFP at the time that he and other LSD members were being monitored by the authorities, with people he believed to be police officers stationed near his home. He wrote on social media three days before the anniversary that he was “imprisoned,” but clarified he was not under house arrest.

The Handover anniversary is traditionally a day of protest for pro-democracy groups, when crowds of Hongkongers would take to the streets chanting political slogans and holding up placards.

League of social democrats LSD
(From left) Chan Po-ying, Raphael Wong, Avery Ng, and “the Bull” Tsang Kin-shing outside the High Court on July 19, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“The political pressure we felt [when police warned us about July 1] is still here… the space for us is becoming more and more narrow,” Chau said.

He added that when the group held a street booth to express their wishes for Chief Executive John Lee’s policy address at the end of this month, officers from the Food and Environmental Health Department confiscated a banner on grounds that it offended the “prohibition on display of bills or posters without permission” provision of an ordinance.

According to the LSD’s Facebook post about the incident, around 30 officers surrounded their booth and fenced it off with orange tape.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.