Today marks the 12 year anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China and to commemorate it, they’re holding their annual protest rally led by the Civil Human Rights Front (a tradition that has gone on since 1997).
In 2003, the march gained a whole new meaning as Hong Kongers protested the proposal of a government anti-subversion law, Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23, which stated:
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.
They feared the loss of freedom of speech along with other freedoms and because of their protest, the government temporarily held off on introducing the Article. The anti-government march will begin at 3:30pm from the Hong Kong stadium and will end on Hennessy Road (map here). It is expected to draw a crowd of around 100,000 people, one of the largest the movement has seen in years.
Protestors are also marching to voice their dissatisfaction against Beijing-appointed leader, Chief Executive Donald Tsang. Tsang has been blamed by many for the economic downturn, and further angered residents when he decried the city’s memorial candlelight vigil for the 20th year anniversary of the June 4 incident.
In response to the perceived response against Tsang, Beijing has said it will be keeping a tight watch on the events taking place today.
According to Earth Times:
Organizers of the protest say Beijing officials have been asking contacts in Hong Kong about the turnout and appeared concerned a huge crowd would undermine Tsang and embarrass China in a year of sensitive anniversaries.
But the march has already taken on more meaning than just a fight for democracy. According to Channel News Asia:
But while the marchers’ list of complaints is long – ranging from the slow pace of constitutional reform to civil service pay freezes – there has been concern the focus of the demonstration could get muddled.
“While most people expect a huge turnout, the message of the marchers is quite diverse,” said Ray Yep, an associate professor at City University.
“You do not see a clear message and you have seen in recent days that the democrats have been trying to re-focus the message back on democracy.”
Cheng Yiu-tong, year’s organizing committee chairman for the 12th anniversary celebrations, tried to clear up what the march was about this year, telling The Standard:
Cheng said the idea drew on the six key measures proposed by the Taskforce on Economic Challenges on June 22, and that this year’s parade aims to inspire people to have faith in a brighter tomorrow.
“Through this event, we hope to encourage the people of Hong Kong to commemorate the 12 years since reunification and at the same time look forward to the future,” Cheng said.
Asked if the July 1 pro-democracy march would counteract the spirit of unity generated by the parade, Cheng said: “Hong Kong is a city of free expression…it is normal for people to express their opinions and differences.”