ASIA NEWS REPORT: In the now traditional 1 July march, which began after the handover of the territory in 1997, Hong Kong residents call on the local and mainland governments to establish institutions that are more representative. Marchers slam proposals to fill vacant Legislative Council through non-democratic rules and oppose the preponderance of property corporations, whose power harms people’s welfare.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – In the humid heat of summer, about 218,000 Hong Kong residents joined the annual 1 July march to demand greater democracy and oppose property corporations, whose hegemony has led to a growing rich-poor disparity. Police sources said that estimated 51,000 protesters took part in the rally.
Since the handover of the former British colony to Chinese rule in 1997, a march has been held on 1 July, from Victoria Park to the Hong Kong central government office, to mark the event and to allow people to express their dissatisfaction over political and social issues.
In 2003, over 500,000 people joined the march to stop the adoption of security legislation and call for the resignation of senior officials. This year marks the highest turnout since 2004, when 200,000 people came out.
The Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of civic groups that includes Catholic organisations, organised the march. Its demands include direct election for Hong Kong’s chief executive and all Legislative Council (LegCo) seats as well as end to the hegemony property corporations, which has led to a growing disparity between rich and poor. Marchers also want current Chief Executive Donald Tsang to step down because his administration has failed to meet local people’s needs.
Front spokesperson Fan Kwok-wai told the press that protesters’ call for greater democracy was clear. They want the Hong Kong government to scrap a proposal on “electoral replacement” that would fill vacant legislative seats based on previous election results. The proposal will be voted at the LegCo on 13 July.
Former LegCo Member and senior civil servant Anson Chan was at the march. She said that such a proposal would deprive people of their right to vote, and should be withdrawn.
Members of the Hong Kong Journalists Association also took part in the rally. They too noted that the proposal would deprive voters of their right to vote and limit freedom of expression.
Vincent, a protester, told AsiaNews that he was disappointed by the democratic reforms proposed by the Hong Kong government as well as its housing policy.
“Soaring housing prices have made it impossible for us to purchase a flat. Expensive properties also have caused the prices of daily necessities to go up. Life is hard. We must voice out our grievances,” he said.
At a Christian prayer meeting held before the march, Father Thomas Law Kwok-fai pointed out that various factors that impact on people’s lives, including telecommunications, supermarkets, shopping arcades, housing estates and even politicians, are all in the hands of certain corporations, and that this deprives others of their right to survive. More than 500 Christians attended the meeting.
At the march, other issues led to appeals, including a call for higher wages for foreign workers, as well as greater concern for new immigrants and medical care, and release of Liu Xiaobo and other Chinese dissidents.