The Hong Kong Police Force has issued a letter of objection to this year’s Hong Kong Pride Parade, saying participants will have restrict their activities to a stationary rally rather than the planned march from Causeway Bay to Central.
The organizers of the parade — which for 10 years has championed equal rights for Hong Kong’s LGBTQ community — announced the decision in a Facebook post today, saying police would permit the event to go ahead “only in the form of a public meeting” at Edinburgh Place this Saturday.
“The Hong Kong Pride Parade committee have decided to hold the public meeting at the original end point of the parade (Edinburgh Place) from 2 pm to 6 pm,” the post says. “We apologize for the inconvenience caused to the changes for the scheduled performances and booths.”
In its letter, the police force cited concerns over safety and public order as a reason for restricting the assembly area.
The police have allowed organizers to hold the rally from 2pm until 8:30pm.
According to Apple Daily, this is the first time police have prevented Hong Kong Pride from taking place. Even during the 2014 Umbrella Movement, the parade was allowed to go ahead.
The response from authorities was a bit belated in comparison with past years. The newspaper reported that organizers usually apply for the police letter of no objection around April, and typically get a response around mid-October in order to give them time to prepare and book guests speakers.
Police have been reluctant to grant letters of no objection for marches in recent weeks amid the city’s long-running and increasingly violent protest movement.
The protests have only intensified in recent days after a student died last week after suffering a brain injury in a fall while police conducted a clearance operation nearby. His death fueled fresh protests this week, which have seen an officer shoot a protester at point blank range, a man set on fire following an argument with protesters, and two people put in critical condition after being struck in the head with a brick and a tear gas round, respectively.