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Sunday, August 17, 2014, 18:47

193,000 march in HK to decry 'Occupy Central'

By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong
193,000 march in HK to decry 'Occupy Central'
193,000 march in HK to decry 'Occupy Central'
Some 193,000 participants take part in the mass rally of the Anti-Occupy Central Campaign organized by the Alliance for Peace and Democracy on Sunday afternoon. The march started from Victoria Park and ended in Central. (Photos by Edmond Tang / China Daily)

Some 193,000 people marched across the heart of Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon to denounce the illegal “Occupy Central” campaign and express their support for peace and democracy.

Enduring Hong Kong’s intense summer heat, hundreds of thousands of residents gathered at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay around noon on Sunday to begin their march to Central along the tramway route.

The rally’s head team left the park at 1:30 pm as protesters quickly packed all six football fields at the park. The first group reached Central at 3 pm — exactly the time they had planned to begin the march — and the organizers wrapped things up after 6 pm.

According to police estimates, some 111,800 people left the park. At the peak of the march, there were 110,600 people marching on trunk roads on northern Hong Kong Island. This number was higher than the recent July 1 march.

The highest estimate came from the rally organizer, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, which put the turnout at 193,000. It had earlier expected 150,000 after over 1.4 million people signed the recent petition opposing “Occupy Central” movement.

The Public Opinion Program of the University of Hong Kong, however, estimated between 79,000 and 88,000 took part. The pollster counted people near Admiralty and also produced its estimate based on a survey with marchers.

As the crowds marched, they shouted: “we are positive energy” and “safeguard peace, oppose ‘Occupy Central’”. Some were seen carrying oversized “Basic Law” props. This was to emphasize the need for election arrangements to conform with constitutional statutes.

Marchers told China Daily they were appealing for peace and meaningful dialogue in Hong Kong. This was needed because society had become more polarized amid debates over political reforms for the 2017 Chief Executive (CE) election.

Surveyor Kaizer Lau Ping-cheung was impressed by the number of younger people participating — which was unusual for a rally held by the pro-establishment camp. He said a strong message calling for peaceful democratic change had been made by the silent majority.

But older people were certainly not absent from the event. An elderly couple, surnamed Kan, both 88, did not march themselves. But they did provide support to the marchers by offering them flowers at the end of the rally. “Some people are trying to mess up Hong Kong,” Mr Kan told China Daily.

Neighborhood and community groups certainly dominated the scene on Sunday, but there were also individual people that came out to express their deeply felt concerns. Paul Wong, who is retired, said he hoped to see less disruptive rallies in Hong Kong in future.

“There are a lot of peaceful channels to express views, such as consultation and elections,” said Wong. He said he was part of the silent majority and it was his first time at a political rally. Wong explained that many people felt their views had been overlooked by politicians fighting for the so-called “moral high ground”.

Sum Mung, the owner of an interior fit-out business, said he was concerned that national security might be threatened by recent events in the city. He said all political sides should have rational discussions on electoral reform. Sum said a step-by-step approach was essential to preserve the social stability of Hong Kong.

Li Hing-tung, a gardener, joined the rally with his family. He said they wanted to express their concerns about the deteriorating political situation in Hong Kong. Li believed some opposition politicians were “paid” to create chaos. He said it was naive for people to blindly follow the antics of the opposition camp.

New People Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said the rally had been important in other ways. “It was not just about opposition to ‘Occupy’,” explained Tien. He believes popular election of the CE will help ease tension in the legislature.

Robert Chow Yung, an outspoken initiator of the rally, said the rally would be successful if the opposition camp abandoned “Occupy” and everybody returned to calm discussions on arrangements for the 2017 CE election.

“We are not forcing a particular package down anyone’s throat. We are saying, please, sit down and talk. That’s all we are asking,” said Chow.

Both he and another rally initiator, unionist Stanley Ng Chau-pei, said there was no further actions planned.

In a statement released on Sunday afternoon, the government maintained its support for all activities which promote the implementation of universal suffrage in 2017 in accordance with the law.

The government stressed that it opposed any unlawful acts which threatened social stability. It said it sincerely hopes for the introduction of “one person, one vote” in the 2017 CE election.

Apart from the march, organizers also staged a dedication of flowers at Chater Road until 9 pm. A race that followed the same route was held in the morning. The organizers told the media there were 1,500 participating in the race.

Two National People’s Congress deputies also dedicated flowers in Central on Sunday.

Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun appealed for a peaceful approach to pursue the democracy, while Maria Tam Wai-chu said the rally would make Hong Kong more united.

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