March organiser could be banned from ‘Civic Square’ over ‘failure to stop separatist’ display at forecourt of HK government headquarters

04-Jan-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A key pro-democracy group could be barred from an iconic space outside the Hong Kong government’s headquarters over its “failure to stop separatists” from promoting their political ideas during a protest it organised, authorities warned on Wednesday.

Responding to a Post inquiry, the Administrative Wing, which manages the forecourt widely known as “Civic Square”, said it wrote to the Civil Human Rights Front, organiser of the New Year’s Day march. The wing had expressed “extreme regret that the front did not appeal to participants not to conduct any activity that contravenes the laws in force in the HKSAR, including the Basic Law”.

The forecourt was closed to the public in the run-up to the Occupy movement, a civil disobedience campaign for greater democracy, which brought parts of the city to a standstill for 79 days in 2014. The space was reopened in 2017 for civic groups to organise rallies during the weekends and holidays.

The letter came a day after the annual new year march on Tuesday. The government said at the end of the march that there were individual participants carrying placards “with slogans advocating independence”, who ignored advice from security guards and forced their way into the forecourt, causing confusion and two guards to fall.

 (South China Morning Post)

(South China Morning Post)

In its reply citing the letter to organisers, the government said it would “give appropriate consideration” to the incident when handling applications to use the forecourt for future “public meetings or processions”.

It added: “The government allowed the public to go into the site for public meetings, demonstrations or for expressing their views, but it cannot allow individuals to use the venue to advocate independence thoughts.”

Referring to the city’s mini-constitution, it said: “The government is responsible for complying with the laws and maintaining Hong Kong’s constitutional order according to the Basic Law.”

The government is responsible for complying with the laws and maintaining Hong Kong’s constitutional order according to the Basic Law

Administrative Wing

Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of the front, said it was the government that had contravened the Basic Law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by restricting the public from freely expressing political ideas.

He admitted that the front had not laid down any restrictions when they set up a stage at the forecourt for participants to speak. But he added that his group would stick to its practice for next year’s event and all other rallies.

Organisers estimated 5,500 people joined the march while police put the figure at 3,200 at its peak. Both estimates were roughly half of last year’s numbers.

About 30 independence advocates, mostly dressed in black and some wearings masks, raised flags and banners with “Hong Kong Independence” slogans during the march which started in Causeway Bay.

Some also waved Tibetan independence and Taiwan flags to demonstrate their solidarity with other separatist sentiments.

The government had made clear earlier that any display of banners or placards with slogans advocating Hong Kong independence would not be allowed in the forecourt where protests traditionally end.

While most independence activists stayed away, one protester was spotted at the forecourt holding a placard that read: “Only with two countries will there be two systems.”

Security guards tried to stop the man and a few others accompanying him, but they forced their way in after some pushing and shoving.



Category: Hong Kong

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