23 July 2024

HONG KONG (Agencies) — Police in Hong Kong, citing public safety concerns,  have banned both a rally and a march planned for tomorrow by the human rights group that has been organizing pro-democracy demonstrations over the past few months.

Approving the Civil Human Rights Front’s (CHRF) march was too risky as some people might use it to “carry out large-scale destruction and disrupt public order”, Mr Kwok Pak Chung, the police force’s regional commander for Hong Kong Island, said at a briefing.

“Based on our intelligence, we believe certain protesters will commit acts of violence during the gathering,” Mr Kwok said. “There’s a high chance that certain violent protesters will hijack this event.”

The ban announced yesterday could trigger further outcry as the rally had been planned for the fifth anniversary of China’s introduction of an electoral reform package that would have restricted democratic freedoms and was later rejected by Hong Kong.

It could also fuel turnout at a two-day general strike called to begin on Monday if the government does not concede to protesters’ major demands by tomorrow, the South China Morning Post said.

Jimmy Sham, one of the protest organizers, said CHRF will appeal the decision after speaking with lawyers: “We did not see a very clear reason [to ban the protest] in the objection letter,” he said.

“We will discuss ways for residents to exercise their right to protest in a safe and legal way,” he added. “[Chief Executive] Carrie Lam has not allowed Hong Kong to return to calm, but she has used different means to make Hong Kong people even angrier.”

The march had been planned to start at centrally located Chater Garden and continue on to China’s liaison office in the city, where Hong Kong’s police and Beijing have drawn their sharpest line after a previous demonstration saw protesters deface the national emblem.

The CHRF has organised three record-breaking peaceful marches over weeks of protests, including the June 9 rally against legislation easing extraditions to China that sparked what has morphed into a broader movement against Beijing’s tightening grip over the city.

Sham also said he was attacked at a restaurant in the Jordan area of Kowloon by two masked men wielding at least one baseball bat and one long knife. He was not hurt as his friend shielded him from the beatings, he said in a CHRF WhatsApp media group chat.

Hong Kong police officials confirmed the attack and said officers had arrived on scene shortly after and had tried “in vain” to locate any suspects, and that the case would be followed up by a criminal investigations team.

Meanwhile, China’s military deployed fresh troops to Hong Kong on Thursday  in what it called a routine rotation amid speculation that it might intervene in the city’s pro-democracy protests

Video broadcast on China Central Television showed a long convoy of armoured personnel carriers and trucks crossing the border at night and troops in formation disembarking from a ship.