An anti-Hong Kong government rally scheduled for next weekend in Kowloon risked being blocked by police because of their concerns about escalating political unrest and violence, organisers said.
The police warning for the July 27 event in the neighbouring residential districts of Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan was the second time the force had raised fears about demonstrations, after earlier protests in Sha Tin and Sheung Shui descended into mayhem between protesters and police.
But police on Wednesday gave the green light to a bigger march to the city’s top court in Central on Sunday, organised by the pro-democracy Civil Human Rights Front, after earlier urging organisers of that event to postpone it to next month.
Local community group Synergy Kowloon, which is behind the July 27 rally, said the march might go ahead regardless of police objections because they could not stop people taking to the streets to express their feelings, adding they would consider supporting protesters if that scenario played out.
The focus of the Sheung Shui rally last Saturday was against parallel trading in the border area, while the one in Sha Tin the following day arose from anger at the unpopular bill, leaving both police and protesters with injuries and resulting in the arrest of at least 47 people.
Timothy Lee Hin-long, a member of Synergy Kowloon, which helped internet users negotiate the arrangements for the July 27 rally against an influx of tourists from mainland China in the area, said police had expressed concerns to them over the recent clashes in Sha Tin and Sheung Shui.
“Police have made clear that they may not necessarily grant the Letter of No Objection for the march to us, based on public safety and traffic conditions,” Lee told a radio programme.
He said 5,000 to 6,000 people were expected to turn up at the rally.
Police had issued a warning that a route was not agreed, restrictions could be imposed, or the rally might not be granted approval at all, according to Lee.
It was proposed the rally would start from Hung Hom Pier to Argyle Street Playground, where local residents had long complained of crowds of mainland Chinese tourists affecting their quality of life.
The choice of route was at the heart of the dispute, with organisers requesting the march followed the main roads of Argyle Street and Ma Tau Wai Road.
Police had objected to this and wanted the group to take the narrower route down Hung Hom Road and Yuk Yat Street.
If police objected to their application, Lee said he could not stop other internet users from pressing ahead.
“Everything in this movement is decentralised, and we cannot speak for what netizens will do ... We can’t preclude they may use their own way to express their opinion,” he said.
The group might still adopt a supportive role if that turned out to be the case, he added.
Under the Public Order Ordinance, organisers of a public assembly attended by more than 50 people have to notify police, and it will only be lawful if the force does not object to it, and that any conditions attached are complied with if approved.
On Tuesday, police urged Civil Human Rights Front, which organised the two major demonstrations in June, to postpone Sunday’s march to August.
However, it emerged on Wednesday afternoon that police had given their approval for it to happen this Sunday as originally planned, with the route expected to start at Causeway Bay and finish at the Court of Final Appeal in Central.
The two marches have forced the government to halt the bill, which would allow the transfer of fugitives to the mainland and other jurisdictions that Hong Kong lacked an extradition deal with.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor suspended the bill on June 15 and said it was “dead” last week but protesters have called for it to be completely withdrawn, among other demands.
Meanwhile, in Yuen Long, a group of young people hosted a screening in a playground over police’s use of force at previous protests.
But it drew around 100 pro-police and government supporters, who surrounded the area and chanted for the youths to leave.
Video footage showed cans and water bottles being thrown during heated exchanges, and some people being punched in the head at least twice.
Police said they received a report at about 9.30pm on Tuesday night and witnessed a dispute in Fung Yau Path, but did not see any signs of criminal behaviour and no arrests were made.
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