HONG KONG: A Hong Kong women’s rights group cancelled a demonstration at the last minute on Saturday (Feb 4) after police said violent groups might want to join the protest.
The Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association was originally granted permission by Hong Kong police to hold a rare public protest on Sunday ahead of International Women’s Day, calling for labour rights, women’s rights and gender equality.
But the association said on its Facebook page late on Saturday it had regrettably decided to cancel the march without giving a reason. It could not immediately be reached for further comment.
This would have been the first major civil rights protest to be approved by police in the city for several years.
China imposed a national security law on the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020, leading to most applications by pro-democracy groups for public demonstrations being rejected by the police, largely on social distancing grounds.
Asked whether the police wanted to avoid a protest which might have embarrassed Beijing during China’s annual parliamentary session, the National People’s Congress, Senior Superintendent Dennis Cheng told reporters the organisers decided to cancel the march after weighing up different unspecified factors.
Cheng added that some “violent groups” wanted to join the protest, without identifying the groups.
The police had previously issued a “no objection” letter with the condition that the organisers ensure the protest would not run contrary to the interests of national security. But after the organisers cancelled, police issued a statement saying anyone taking part would therefore be participating in an unauthorised event.
“Any persons who continue to assemble in the relevant locations tomorrow would be considered (to be) participating in an unauthorised assembly,” the statement said, adding they would be liable to a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 outlawing acts including subversion with up to life in prison.
The law has been criticised by some Western governments as a tool to crush dissent, but the Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the law has restored stability to the city after protracted pro-democracy protests in 2019.