Police ban Yuen Long rally, organizers pledge to go ahead with march

Organisers for a march due to take place in Yuen Long on Saturday, July 25. Screengrab via YouTube/Apple Daily.
Organisers for a march due to take place in Yuen Long on Saturday, July 25. Screengrab via YouTube/Apple Daily.

The organizers of a rally due to take place in the restive town of Yuen Long have vowed to go ahead with their march as planned even after the city’s police today declined to issue a permit over safety concerns.

A police letter of objection sent to the organizers today said that they believed the march would pose a danger to protesters, villagers, and other members of the public, and that the organizers had failed to promise there would be enough marshals to maintain order, RTHK reports. The plans for the march followed an outbreak of mob violence at the Yuen Long MTR station on Sunday in which apparently pro-Beijing thugs viciously attacked pro-democracy protesters and others.

Max Chung, one of the march’s organizers, said he would appeal the decision, but added he wasn’t confident it would work, and warned that the ban would likely spark a larger turnout of people angered by the police’s “political move.”

The announcement comes one day after the Shap Pat Heung Rural Committee, a body that represents the interests of indigenous villagers in the New Territories, held a press conference saying they strongly opposed the march going ahead, Ming Pao reports.

Speaking to reporters in Yuen Long this afternoon, Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said Article 27 of the Basic Law guarantees the right to freedom of speech and assembly, and accused police of bowing to pressure from Yuen Long’s rural leaders, saying the decision not to allow the protest was “spreading a message that Hong Kong is no longer safe.”

“If Shap Pat Heung Rural Committee threatens the police, then the police just followed their demands, Hong Kong will enter an era of white terror,” he said.

The obvious potential for violence at the planned march had prompted public figures on both sides of the political divide to speak out, and Section 14 of Hong Kong’s Public Order Ordinance grants the police commissioner the right to reject applications for gatherings “if he reasonably considers that the objection is necessary in the interests of national security or public safety.”

Despite the march’s organizers insisting it would be peaceful, “battle plans” circulating on forums frequented by Hong Kong protesters called for outright violence against the residents of Yuen Long in retribution for Sunday’s attacks.

“We should do what we are familiar with near the village: throw eggs, spray paint, whatever,” one such post read. “If the villagers come out, don’t even hesitate — beat them until they can’t even recognize their own mothers’ graves. The most important thing when visiting the village is to gear up!”

Following news that the police wouldn’t allow the march, some protesters suggested re-billing the protest as a “shopping day” or a memorial service for the former Chinese Premier Li Peng, who is widely reviled for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Li’s death was officially announced on Tuesday.

Religions gatherings and funerals are exempted under the Public Order Ordnance.

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