July 1 is the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the sovereignty of China and has become a day of protest where all kinds of social grievances are brought to the streets from calls for more LGBT rights to demands for greater protection of migrant workers. The Civil Human Rights Front, the organiser of the mass rally, put the turnout at 110,000, compared with last year’s 48,000, a tad over the top no doubt.
This year there was disagreement over a proposed unifying demand that could have united all protesters, with the primary goal being the ousting of Hong Kong’s top man, the unpopular Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. He is seen as Beijing’s man in Hong Kong instead of Hong Kong’s man in Hong Kong, reporting to Beijing – about the concerns of local people here.
This disagreement did not stop the protests and the result was protests for and against Beijing, with supporters and detractors evident, the latter in far greater numbers.
While Jackie Hung, the Civil Human Rights Front’s deputy convener insists they are asking Leung to step down … and they hope political reform can be pushed through, because Leung represents only the interests of specific groups of people, many others, particularly the younger generation, say that the march should be used to call for a complete change to the entire system.
On the pop star front, Denise Ho, the vocal pro-democracy Hong Kong celebrity who recently had her concert canceled by its corporate organizers, the French cosmetic brand Lancôme, said to the media: “Freedom and human rights in Hong Kong have been suppressed,” and “There’s no situation worse than right now. We need to speak up before we’re completely opposed and our voices are completely erased.”
Nathan Law, chairman of the recently formed Demosisto Party, that is led by student activists from the 2014 Occupy protests, told Time magazine “I believe that the core message should be targeted at the system itself instead of a person,” and “I would rather uphold democracy or self-determination.”
Law’s party colleague Joshua Wong – named by Time magazine among its Most Influential Teens of 2014 — called it the “only solution” for the city.
Other groups are calling for outright independence. At least three such groups – Youngspiration, Hong Kong Indigenous and the Hong Kong National Party – who organized their own ‘black-bloc’ demonstration at the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government [China] headquarters.
The hot topic though was the non-appearance of bookseller Lam Wing-kee, the freed bookseller due to lead the protest march through the streets of Hong Kong who pulled out only two hours before it was due to start citing serious threats for his safety.
On this topic, in Beijing, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya accused Lam of destroying “one country, two systems” by selling books on the mainland that were banned there.
Sixty-one-year-old Lam is one of the five associates of Hong Kong-based Mighty Current publishing determined under Chinese law as guilty of complicity in distributing socially disturbing dirty-linen books on Chinese leaders. Their detention is widely seen as the most obvious breach by Beijing to date of the territory’s autonomy, guaranteed by China when it resumed control of the former British colony on July 1, 1997, and undermining the “one country, two systems” principle that has governed the city relationship with China over the past 19 years.
On the side of the day’s activities were a hundred and one lesser demonstrations about a hundred and one different issues and the entire affair went off with a minimum of violence – three arrests were made and pepper spray was used in at least one incident. Not bad for a big city.