A total of 48,000 people took part in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy march yesterday, event organizers estimated, not even 10 percent of last year’s 510,000 record turnout.
Yesterday’s rally marks the third-lowest turnout ever recorded since the annual protest was first launched by the Civil Human Rights Front in 2003. The march saw its smallest crowd in 2008, when 47,000 people attended.
Not counting the group of 20 pro-democracy protestors who marched towards the territory’s flag-raising venue yesterday morning, this is the first pro-democracy protest to take place since lawmakers on June 18 rejected the electoral package which would have granted residents the ability to vote for chief executive in 2017, but only from a pool of candidates pre-screened by Beijing.
The march started at 3:00 p.m. from Victoria Park towards the government headquarters in Admiralty. Participants occupied only the area of one and a half football pitches, and it took just one hour for the whole assembly to clear out of Victoria Park.
Police, meanwhile, estimated that there were around 19,000 people participating in the march at its peak.
Despite the slim turnout, Daisy Chan of the Civil Human Rights Front insists that the rally does not mark the end of the Hong Kong civil rights movement. It was forecasted that the protest would see less participants this year due to the failed reform efforts.
The theme of the march this year was “To Build a Democratic Hong Kong, Regain the Future of Our City”. Organizers’ ultimate goals were to urge Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to step down, to abolish the functional constituencies and to amend the Basic Law. They also called for further investigation into the perceived abuse of power by the hands of police during last year’s Occupy movement.
Government officials in a statement yesterday emphasized that amending the Basic Law would not benefit the long-term and overall well-being of Hong Kong, reaffirming that it was not possible to restart the political reform process in the next two years.
In a speech, Leung said that from observing various European countries, “democratic systems and procedures are no panacea for economic and livelihood issues.”
On the mainland, the Global Times lashed out on protestors in a scathing editorial.
“It must be thrilling to shout those slogans, but they are no different than making some wailing sounds on the square or demanding that every Hong Kong dollar be exchanged for 100 U.S. dollars,” it said. “They are simply some rotten slogans that have been shouted in vain.”
Take a look at the photos of the march below.
Watch the video of the march here:
[Images via Ming Pao & Oriental Daily]
By Joyce Ng