Police have rejected three groups' applications to hold July 1 marches, citing social distancing measures.
The League of Social Democrats, Tin Shui Wai Connection and Save Lantau Alliance submitted their applications last week for the annual march from Victoria Park to Government headquarters at Tamar on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to Chinese rule in 1997.
This came after the Civil Human Rights Front decided not to hold its July 1 march for the first time in 19 years due to the recent jailing of its convener Figo Chan Ho-wun and a police investigation into the march's legality.
Police yesterday issued a letter of objection for the three groups' marches, saying public gatherings of more than four people were still prohibited.
They noted that the city's response level to the Covid-19 pandemic is still in an "emergency" state, meaning the situation remains critical.
Police also said the marches would increase the risk of people contracting Covid-19 and pose grave dangers to public health and safety.
"After negotiating with the three groups, we believe that our infection-control requirements on the proposed marches are still unable to safeguard public order, safety as well as the freedom and rights of others," police said.
"As a result, we decided to overturn the applications."
The groups questioned this decision.
"Throughout our negotiations with the police, we emphasized that a distance of 1.5 meters would be maintained between all marchers and supervision of the crowds would be reinforced," the three groups said in a joint statement.
Save Lantau Alliance convener Eddie Tse Sai-kit said the groups informed the police that they would implement social distancing measures, but in vain.
The groups noted it was unfair that the authorities banned their marches but relaxed the cap on indoor group gatherings.
"Under specific circumstances, such as if two thirds of the patrons have been vaccinated, certain premises can accommodate 100 percent of their normal seating capacity," the groups said.
"We don't understand why the indoor four-people gathering cap can be relaxed, but marches - a civil right under the Basic Law - can be deprived. We will appeal to the Security Bureau's appeal board on public meetings and processions to strive for a lawful march that can spare Hongkongers from the fear of repercussions and political oppression."