The Hong Kong Taoist Association cancelled a parade it had planned for Sunday after police suggested it do so, Ming Pao has reported.

The group originally planned to march from Maple Street Playground in Sham Shui Po along Nathan Road to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui.

A rally held by the Hong Kong Taoist Association in Sham Shui Po on March 12, 2023.
A rally held by the Hong Kong Taoist Association in Sham Shui Po on March 12, 2023. Photo: Sidney Ho, via video screenshot.

After cancelling the march, the Hong Kong Taoist Association – an organisation that promotes Taoism in Hong Kong – held a rally at Maple Street Playground instead.

The association told Ming Tao that it had sought police approval for the parade half a year ago. In a meeting with law enforcement last week, the association said police suggested that a rally be held instead of a parade after risk assessment.

The police told HKFP on Monday that the association had informed them last Wednesday that it would hold a rally instead of a parade.

“After receiving the organiser’s notice for holding an event, the police and the organiser maintained mutual and effective communication,” police said.

“The police will conduct full risk assessment based on the public event’s aim, nature, number of participants, as well as [the police’s] experience in the past and the latest situation,” the force said. “

“[The police] will also take relevant measures to handle the public events based on the result of the risk assessment.”

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, parades were organised by the association annually since 2013 to celebrate Hong Kong Taoist Day, which falls on the second Sunday of March.

HKFP has reached out to the Hong Kong Taoist Association for comment.

Second cancelled protest in a month

The parade is the second demonstration to have been cancelled this month.

A protest planned by Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association was called off by the group the night before it was scheduled to take place.

women's rights march cancelled
Heavy police presence was spotted in Wan Chai on March 6, 2023 after a women’s rights march was cancelled. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The association did not state the reason for its decision. The police said that the group had decided to call off the demonstration “after balancing the interests of all parties.”

The force also said that there were “violent groups” intending to attend the march, but did not name any such groups when asked by reporters.

The League of Social Democrats, one of the city’s last remaining active pro-democracy groups, said that four of its members had been warned against attending the demonstration by national security police.

Protests and rallies have become a rare sight in Hong Kong following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the implementation of the national security law in 2020.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang said in January that police had not approved any applications for demonstrations or rallies for three years because of health concerns.

The security chief also denied that people were less willing to express their views following the enactment of the sweeping security legislation in June 2020. Tang said that people’s freedom of assembly was protected by the Basic Law and the security law.

Chief Executive John Lee said last week that anyone who was not confident or capable that public events could proceed safely and orderly should not organise them, as the organiser ultimately had to bear the legal responsibility.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.