The organisers of a planned Labour Day march have said that the Hong Kong police interrogated them on where they got their funding for the proposed demonstration and how they would guard against violent groups “hijacking” the event.

Labour day protest march rally
A Labour Day march in 2019. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

In a Facebook post published on Saturday, the organisers – two former members of pro-democracy coalition the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) – said they met with police on Friday afternoon to discuss details of the march. With a week to go until the demonstration, the event was yet to receive police approval, something that is required for public processions of more than 30 people.

“During the meeting, police asked us questions about a couple of different things. First of all, police asked us who the target participants of the march are, how we will identify participants, what our role is… and the source of funding for the march,” the post read.

Police also asked about hypothetical scenarios, such as what the organisers would do if the total number of participants exceeded estimations, and how they would handle “people with different views, including how to avoid violent groups from hijacking the march,” according to the Facebook post.

The march is being organised by former chairperson of HKCTU Joe Wong and ex-committee member Denny To. The group was the city’s largest pro-democracy coalition until it folded in 2021, when dozens of other civil society organisations also shut down in the wake of the national security law.

To told local media that they had applied to march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to the Central Government Offices in Admiralty at 3 p.m. on May 1, with the maximum size of the rally set at 500.

During the Friday meeting, police showed the organisers comments left on their Facebook post about the planned march and asked them whether they knew who had left them, the post read. One of the comments were “even though [we] are in the UK, we still support everyone. Add oil.”

The organisers said police told them they had noticed that Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor, a UK-based advocacy group that lobbies for the city’s labour rights, had shared information about the march. Officers asked then whether they had any association with the overseas advocacy group.

Police also asked the organisers whether participants would include members of disbanded civil society organisations, the organisers added.

Protests ‘not the only way’ to air views

Traditionally, political parties and labour rights groups from across the political spectrum have held Labour Day events to advocate for workers’ rights. Such scenes, however, have not been seen since Covid-19.

Labour day protest march rally
A Labour Day protest on May 1, 2019. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions, a pro-Beijing party, said earlier this month that it had called off a planned Labour Day march, an announcement that came days after China’s top official for Hong Kong affairs Xia Baolong said that protests were “not the only way” for the public to air their views during a visit to the city.

In the Saturday post, the former HKCTU members said they were just “regular citizens who care about labour rights” and do not have any source of funding or affiliations with other groups.

“Labour Day marches over the past 20 years have been peaceful… we do not think that any major changes are needed for arrangements [this time],” the post read.

While some small-scale public gatherings have recently been granted police approval, they have been subject to stringent measures. At Hong Kong’s first authorised protest against a government policy in about two years, demonstrators were made to wear numbered tags and carry their own cordon lines.

Support HKFP  |  Code of Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp
2023 fund hkfp
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

contact hkfp

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.