Hundreds of thousands of people marched though the streets of Hong
Kong Island yesterday in an outpouring of frustration and anger on a
scale not seen since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
The massive crowd, estimated by organisers at up to 500,000, jammed
main roads from Victoria Park to Government Headquarters in Central
for more than six hours, chanting slogans including "Down with Tung
Chee-hwa" and "Return rule to the people".
A spokesman for the organisers, Richard Choi, told thousands of
protesters in Victoria Park: "We have had enough."
Choi, of the Alliance Against Article 23 and the Civil Human Rights
Front, added: "We choose to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the
handover to show that Hong Kong people are no longer silent and
Tung said in a statement issued by his office later that he understood
the people's concerns and their economic "pain", but insisted that
the government's stance on human rights and freedoms was the same as
The size of the march, which started at Victoria Park at 3pm and
lasted until 9.30pm, far eclipsed earlier estimates of 50,000 to
Police admitted having difficulty getting an accurate figure, but put
the number that passed Government Headquarters after 6pm at 350,000.
The last marchers did not leave Victoria Park until 8.30pm.
Although the march had been organised to protest against the imminent
passage of the Article 23 anti-subversion law and came just a week
before the proposed ordinance goes to the Legislative Council it was
clear the frustrations went beyond that. Some protesters said they
were tired of being ignored by the government, some blamed it for
soaring unemployment and others demanded an independent inquiry into
the handling of the Sars outbreak.
Speaking outside Causeway Bay's Regal Hotel nearly three hours into
the march, housewife Amy Siu, 50, said people were "frustrated" with
the "stubborn" Tung administration.
"They make decisions that are good for the government, or good for
Beijing, but not for the Hong Kong people," she said. "It seems the
government doesn't listen to other voices. Even though we're marching
today, they won't listen."
Several hundred metres behind Siu, secondary school teacher Oscar Tse
_ who marched with his parents in 1989 said he disapproved of the
current political system. "I'm marching because the government does
not represent the people," the 29-year-old said as three helicopters
hovered above. "My wife and friends from church are also marching,
and my mum will start marching after work, because of Article 23."
In his statement, Tung said: "We will continue to actively maintain
and protect human rights and freedoms and to gradually develop
democracy in accordance with the Basic Law." He also reiterated the
government's stance that the subversion law would not affect present
rights and freedoms.
He called on Hong Kong people to show the unity they had shown in
fighting the Sars outbreak to rebuild the economy "as soon as
But barrister-legislator Audrey Eu said if the government continued to
ignore people's voices and go ahead with the Article 23 legislation,
it showed "the government is really hopeless".
From early morning, protesters began packing into Victoria Park's
grass and bitumen squares, separated by barricades from a football
festival celebrating six years of the SAR.
Each time lion dances began on the festival stage, the protesters
jeered, whistled and roared, trying to drown out the music. Oblivious
to the mass of black T-shirt clad protesters surrounding them, scores
of elderly women in bright pink T-shirts and hats line-danced slowly
near the stage.
On the other side of the barricades, many young women held
battery-operated fans to their faces, trying to beat the 32-degree
Among them was Ms Chan, an executive secretary with a Sha Tin-based
multinational company. "I'm here for freedom of news and freedom of
speech," the 31-year-old said. "If it's the end of media freedom in
Hong Kong, it's the end of Hong Kong."
Some protesters sang along to a Cantonese version of We Shall Overcome
and other folk songs.
Placards and stickers showed why people marched. "We love our
country, we love Hong Kong, we love freedom of speech," one said.
Stickers on chests read: "No rushed laws" and "We deserve better."
Engineering graduate Kevin Ngai, 23, held up a T-shirt reading: "Mr C
H Tung step down please."
Ngai, who will start job-hunting this month, said he wanted the next
Chief Executive to be directly elected.
One marcher, Stanley, who declined to give his surname, said: "On
June 4, we loved our country and went to support it. Now, we're angry
with the government. It's not the Article 23 problem, it's the
process. The government did not listen to the people."
The people of Hong Kong have spoken.
The question now is whether the Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, and
his administration will listen.
Despite the heat, as many as 500,000 people from all walks of life
took to the streets yesterday to say they have had enough.
These were not people just out for a walk in the sunshine, as our
Secretary for Security, Regina Ip, so contemptuously indicated last
These are people who are concerned about their future and the future
of Hong Kong.
At the centre of their anger is the way the administration has pushed
the anti-subversion legislation that is to be enacted under Article 23
of the Basic Law, legislation that many fear will limit the rights of
people living in Hong Kong.
But yesterday's demonstration is more than a protest against Article
It is a vote of no confidence in Tung and his administration.
Six years since the handover of sovereignty, Tung has lost credibility
in the eyes of the people of Hong Kong.
Not since the dark days of June 1989, when more than one million
people took to the streets following the Tiananmen Square massacre,
have we seen such an outpouring of frustration and anger.
Tung may dismiss yesterday's demonstration as an example of the "one
country, two systems" working, but he will be missing the point.
Since the handover, the people of Hong Kong have watched as their
overall standard of living deteriorated in a city that Tung likes to
refers to as "Asia's World City", a "world city" where
unemployment is now at record levels.
For many people of Hong Kong, the future is clouded in uncertainty.
Even the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement may not provide the
security many had initially hoped the agreement would bring. In short,
Tung has failed to produce anything of substance and the people have
had enough. They said so yesterday, loud and clear.
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