Thousands of protesters gathered on July 1 at Victoria Park to take part in a march to express their grievances against social injustice and their hopes for more democracy in Hong Kong.
The main slogan of the march was “To establish democracy in Hong Kong and to regain the territory’s future.” The procession was led by secondary school and university students, signifying that Hong Kong’s future depends on the young people, followed by teachers and other political and social groups.
The march took place almost two weeks after the veto of the government’s Electoral Reform Bill at the Legislative Council. On June 18, the bill was voted down by 28 to 8 with the dramatic absence of most pro-establishment Legislative Councillors seconds before the voting.
Many political parties and non-governmental-organizations (NGOs) took part in the demonstration, which was organized by the Civil Human Rights Front.
Protesters spoke with Epoch Times about why they took part in the march.
Francis Yam, who says he has always supported democracy in Hong Kong, emphasized that it was important for people to express their views: “We know the Chinese will not [be] persuaded by us, but we still come out because the government will step forward against our democracy and freedom [if we don’t].”
Lam worries that Hong Kong chief executive C.Y. Leung will try to pass Article 23, the anti-subversion legislation first proposed by Beijing in 2002 that Hongkongers believe will limit their rights.
Article 23 requires Hong Kong to enact its own laws on treason, secession, sedition, subversion, state secrets and to prohibit foreign political organizations from conducting political activities in the territory, and to prohibit political groups establishing ties with foreign political bodies.
The government’s attempt to introduce the controversial legislation faced unprecedented public opposition with half a million people taking to the street, and the plan has been shelved.
Demonstrators demanded C.Y. Leung step down, the abolition of functional constituency in the LegCo (the provision for professional or interest groups in Hong Kong to elect members to the Legislative Council), as well as the amendment of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution.
Some protesters spoke of a demoralization among Hongkongers.
Joe, a member of the Civic Party, said it was necessary to speak out when faced with social injustice. Saying that people might not believe in the use of protests anymore, he said, “There’s not too many people who understand how elections or how the government [operates]. I think that’s important for the future.”
His view was echoed by another protester, a worker nicknamed “Fat Dragon,” who lamented that Hong Kong people are lost and need to work out the next steps in their quest for democracy.
Civil Human Rights Front convenor Daisy Chan had hoped that the turnout could match that of last year, which organizers said had 510,000 participants, but was prepared for a lower number. The turnout was in fact lower than hoped, with organizers estimating it to be 48,000.
National Security Law
While Hong Kong protesters pressed for more political rights, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee announced on Wednesday morning the passing of a sweeping national security law that will place further restrictions on freedoms of expression and civil rights.
Though a Beijing official has stressed that it will not apply in Hong Kong, many civic leaders and Hong Kong people have expressed their concerns. Political commentator Johnny Lau said the law could create a chilling effect on the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong.
Chief Executive C.Y. Leung said the Hong Kong government has no plans to enact the controversial Article 23 anytime soon.
Demands to Prosecute Jiang Zemin
Dressed in traditional yellow costumes, Falun Gong practitioners took part in the procession in style. Responding to the change in Chinese law that allows citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who has broken the law, banners requesting the prosecution of former Chinese Communist Party head Jiang Zemin were held high.
Nearly ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners have filed criminal complaints against Jiang Zemin for his role in the persecution of Falun Gong. Jiang began the persecution in 1999.
According to the Falun Gong website Minghui.org, over 3,800 practitioners have died from torture and abuse, although the real number is believed to be much higher, due to the difficulty in getting information out of China. Researchers believe tens of thousands of practitioners have been murdered by having their organs removed for organ transplantation.