Skip to main content

Not Just Another March 非一般遊行

It was less than a month ago when citizens wrestled with the dilemma of whether to take part in the Tiananmen candlelight vigil at Victoria Park. Naysayers argued that the annual ritual, in its 28th iteration this year, had devolved into a night of sing-along and group therapy, as well as a thinly-veiled excuse for political parties to hit up participants for money. Those arguments had traction, especially among the youth, and many chose to stay home on June 4th. The turnout was the lowest in years.

An annual ritual

Call it the Vic Park déjà vu. Three weeks after the raucous Tiananmen debate, Hong Kongers once again find themselves ruminating over yet another “should I stay or should I go” decision, this time about the July 1st march. In Hong Kong, taking to the streets on Handover Day has been something of a tradition. The march typically begins at Victoria Park, inches down Hennessy Road and finishes at the government headquarters. It is an annual outing for the public to vent their anger over a host of political and social issues, from the call for universal suffrage to the withdrawal of bad government bills and the protection of a free press. 

Over the years, the Handover Day protest has taken on a carnival atmosphere. The entire westbound Hennessy Road and Queensway from Causeway Bay to Admiralty are turned into a pedestrian zone. Opposition political parties and advocacy groups set up colourful fund-raising booths along the route, handing out paper fans and selling paraphernalia. As a result, the march shares many of the same criticisms levelled against the Tiananmen vigil. This year, with C.Y Leung out of the picture and chief executive elect Carrie Lam yet to reveal what kind of villain she will be, march organizers are struggling to find a cause célèbre to fire up the public. A good turnout looks doubtful. 

Low turnout at this year's Tiananmen Square vigil

So in case you need a nudge to get off the couch and head over to Victoria Park on Handover Day, here are a few reasons why you should. 

First, when it comes to large-scale demonstrations, numbers speak and size matters. In Hong Kong, protester turnout is one of the most reliable and closely watched barometers of public sentiment, which is why the police routinely underreports the numbers to downplay dissatisfaction toward the government. Since the handover, big rallies have resulted in major concessions from the authorities, most notably in 2003 when half a million citizens forced then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to withdraw an anti-subversion bill, and in 2012 when 120,000 parents and students staged a sit-in in Tamar to thwart a patriotic education curriculum. A strong showing on this Handover Day will deliver a clear message to Carrie Lam that we are here to hold her and her rogue gallery of unpopular cabinet members to account. A low turnout, on the other hand, will give Lam plenty of bragging rights in front of her bosses up north.

Second, it is often said that a right not exercised is a right lost. Already, civil liberties in Hong Kong have been under threat on all fronts, from press and academic freedoms to the freedom to publish and protest. This year, the Victoria Park football pitches—the traditional starting point for the July 1st march—have been “pre-booked” for pro-Beijing celebrations, forcing marchers to convene on the nearby lawn, which may cause confusion and potential run-ins with the Chinese flag-waving revelers. Similarly, the Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower, a popular meeting place where the fringe localist group Hong Kong National Party has planned a vigil on June 30th, is suddenly off limits due to “public maintenance works.” If we choose to self-censor by staying home on Handover Day, we may be complicit in the government’s effort to curtail our constitutionally protected right of assembly. 

Low turnout expected at this year's July 1st march

Third and most importantly, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the handover and President Xi Jinping is expected to grace us with his presence. The entire foreign press corps will descend on the city to cover the pomp and circumstance. What better occasion is there for Hong Kongers to make maximum noise and draw maximum attention to our grievances and demands? With the help of law enforcement, our government is determined to turn Xi’s visit into a tightly-controlled, Pyongyang-style tour by locking down large swaths of the city to keep out pesky protesters and filling the streets with minders and rent-a-crowds. We don’t need another North Korea, and we owe it to ourselves to show the Paramount Leader the real Hong Kong—one that our ruling elite don’t want their top boss to see. 

If none of these reasons are enough to persuade you to join the march, then consider this: if Carrie Lam has her way and passes an anti-subversion bill within her first term, we might not, by the time the next milestone anniversary rolls around, have a chance to march down Hennessy Road chanting anti-Beijing slogans without risking arrest and prison. So enjoy your right while you still can.

The rally begins next Saturday at 3:00 pm from the Victoria Park lawn. March with the Progressive Lawyers Group (法政匯思) or look for their booth on the intersection of Hennessy Road and Tin Lok Lane (天樂里). 

March with the Progressive Lawyers Group!

This article appeared on Hong Kong Free Press under the title “Why Hong Kong's July 1 Democracy March isn't 'just another protest'."

As published on Hong Kong Free Press

Popular Posts

Who is Agnes Chow? 誰是周庭?

It was roughly six months ago when Nathan Law, chairman of Demosisto, lost his job. He and five other pro-democracy lawmakers had strayed from the prescribed oath during the swearing-in ceremony, and were ousted from the Legislative Council (LegCo) after Beijing issued a reinterpretation of the oath-taking provisions in the Basic Law. Many saw the unseating of six democratically-elected lawmakers, dubbed “Oathgate” in the local press, as a calculated political move to purge the legislature of the opposition.

The time to fill some of these vacated seats is finally upon us. Four by-elections will be held simultaneously on March 11, in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West, New Territories East and for the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape sector.
Barely old enough to run, 21-year-old Agnes Chow (周庭) of pro-democracy party Demosisto has thrown her hat into the ring hoping to win back Law’s Hong Kong Island seat. Her decision to run has not come without a price: she has deferred …

“As I See It” has moved to

As I See It has a new look and a new home!!
Please bookmark for the latest articles and a better reading experience.

Legacy articles will continue to be available on this page. Thank you for your support since 2008.

Off to a Rocky Start 香港中箭

Hang Seng Bank has frozen its deposit account. Cybersquatters have occupied its domain name. Its hastily organized press conference, held last Sunday night in a subterranean auditorium, had all the trappings of a student council meeting: it started several hours late and the live streaming on YouTube was interrupted so many times that the number of viewers hovered around 300 and at times dropped below 20.
If that is any indication of the challenges facing Joshua Wong’s new political party, then it is in for a bumpy road ahead.

Demosistō, the grown-up version of Scholarism – which Wong founded four years ago to oppose C.Y. Leung’s patriotic education plan – is meant to help the 19-year-old and his posse shed their school boy image to better position themselves for a serious Legislative Council bid in September.
Wong is hoping that the new party with an intelligent-sounding name will wipe the slate clean and allow pro-democracy activists of all ages to join without looking like they ar…

The Moonscape of Sexual Equality - Part 1 走在崎嶇的路上-上卷

There are things about America that boggle the mind: gun violence, healthcare costs and Donald Trump. But once in a while – not often, just once in a while – the country gets something so right and displays such courage that it reminds the rest of the world what an amazing place it truly is. What happened three days ago at the nation’s capital is shaping up to be one of those instances.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 5-to-4 decision on same-sex marriage, the most important gay rights ruling in the country’s history. In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy wrote, “It would misunderstand [gay and lesbian couples] to say that they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find fulfillment for themselves… They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” 
With those simple words, Justice Kennedy made marriage equality a constitutionally prote…

Join the Club 入會須知

You have reached a midlife plateau. You have everything you thought you wanted: a happy family, a well-located apartment and a cushy management job. The only thing missing from that bourgeois utopia is a bit of oomph, a bit of recognition that you have played by the rules and done all right. A Porsche 911? Too clichéd. A rose gold Rolex? Got that last Christmas. An extramarital affair that ends in a costly divorce or a boiled bunny? No thanks. How about a membership at one of the city’s country clubs where accomplished individuals like yourself hang out in plaid pants and flat caps? Sounds great, but you’d better get in line.

Clubs are an age-old concept that traces back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The introduction of coffee beans to England in the mid-17th Century spurred the proliferation of coffeehouses for like-minded gentlemen to trade gossip about the monarchy over a hot beverage. In the centuries since, these semi-secret hideouts evolved into main street establishments t…

Generation Shift 換代

For months, fierce political campaigns, vicious personal attacks and sporadic allegations of electoral irregularities had filled the airwaves and fueled social media discourse in Hong Kong. One candidate was forced to drop out and flee to the U.K. after receiving threats of physical harm.
That is because the stakes had never been higher.

On Sunday, in the first election in Hong Kong since the Umbrella Movement was spawned in 2014, more than two million citizens – nearly 60% of all registered voters – went to the polls. 40 seats on the Legislative Council, or Legco, the region’s parliament, were up for grabs by candidates representing a wide spectrum of political parties. They ranged from diehard Beijing loyalists to pro-democracy veterans and younger, more radical newcomers calling for autonomy and even independence from China... __________________________
Read the rest of this article in The Guardian under the title: Hong Kong pro-democracy activists grab foothold on power in assembl…

The Art of Profanity 粗口藝術

We react to life’s little vicissitudes – nicking the car door, dropping the phone on a concrete pavement or losing hours of work to a computer crash – with a curse word or two. If some brute walks by and knocks the coffee right out of our hand, the appropriate response is: What the fuck? 

Swearing is one of those things that we do everyday and nearly everywhere. But like breaking wind and picking our nose, profanity is only bad when someone else does it. Most of us are too squeamish or sanctimonious to own up to it. Rarely in the human experience has something so universally shared been so vehemently condemned and denied.

Profanity exists in every culture. Curse words are the first vocabulary we learn in a foreign language and the only one we remember years later. The linguistic phenomenon can be traced as far back as Ancient Egypt and Babylon. Literary giants like William Shakespeare, James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw were known to use obscenity inventively in their works, as did …

Seeing Joshua 探之鋒

“We are here to visit a friend,” I said to the guard at the entrance. 
Tiffany, Joshua Wong Chi-fung’s long-time girlfriend, trailed behind me. It was our first time visiting Joshua at Pik Uk Correctional Institution and neither of us quite knew what to expect.

“Has your friend been convicted?” asked the guard. We nodded in unison. There are different visiting hours and rules for suspects and convicts. Each month, convicts may receive up to two half-hour visits from friends and family, plus two additional visits from immediate family upon request.
The guard pointed to the left and told us to register at the reception office. “I saw your taxi pass by earlier,” he said while eyeing a pair of camera-wielding paparazzi on the prowl. “Next time you can tell the driver to pull up here to spare you the walk.”
At the reception counter, Officer Wong took our identity cards and checked them against the “List.” Each inmate is allowed to grant visitation rights to no more than 10 friends and fam…

From Street to Chic, Hong Kong’s many-colored food scene 由大排檔到高檔: 香港的多元飲食文化

Known around the world as a foodie’s paradise, Hong Kong has a bounty of restaurants to satisfy every craving. Whether you are hungry for a lobster roll, Tandoori chicken or Spanish tapas, the Fragrant Harbour is certain to spoil you for choice.
The numbers are staggering. Openrice, the city’s leading food directory, has more than 25,000 listings—that’s one eatery for every 300 people and one of the highest restaurants-per-capita in the world. The number of Michelin-starred restaurants reached a high of 64 in 2015, a remarkable feat for a city that’s only a little over half the size of London. Amber and Otto e Mezzo occupied two of the five top spots in Asia according to The World’s Best Restaurants, serving up exquisite French and Italian fares that tantalise even the pickiest of taste buds.

While world class international cuisine is there for the taking, it is the local food scene in Hong Kong that steals the hearts of residents and visitors alike. Whatever your budget and palate…

Major Yuen to Ground Control 自「袁」其說

Seven years after Donald Tsang’s administration rammed a funding bill through the legislature to bankroll the cross-border rail link, the SAR government this week unveiled a long-awaited proposal to resolve the border control conundrum. At issue is whether carving out certain areas at the West Kowloon terminal station where mainland officers are given broad criminal and civil jurisdiction will run afoul of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. 
It is an 84-billion-dollar question that can make or break the controversial infrastructure project. If the government’s proposal falls through, then every time-saving and convenience advantage to justify the rail link’s dizzying price tag is put at risk. But if the plan prevails, it may create a foreign concession of sorts in Hong Kong and open a Pandora’s box of extraterritorial law enforcement.

The central question is a straightforward one: is the joint checkpoint proposal constitutional?
The answer can be found in Chapter II of the…