Citing coronavirus social distancing measures, state-run Hong Kong police banned a major demonstration against China’s planned national security law for the city, its organiser said on June 27.
The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) said the force had rejected its applications for rallies on July 1, the 23rd anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China.
The official Letter of Objection, shared by the CHRF, cited a cap on group gatherings to no more than 50 people as well as previous cases of unrest during protests last year. Another letter sent by police on June 26 to District Councilor Andy Chui Chi-kin also denied permission for a protest on July 1.
The pro-democracy group CHRF, which was responsible for some of last year’s massive demonstrations, said they would appeal the decision.
The group has repeatedly rejected applications to hold public assemblies, last month breaking a 30-year-long tradition of honouring victims of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre in a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park.
Local authorities have extended the group gathering restriction multiple times whilst loosening restrictions on businesses.
In the letter to CHRF convenor Jimmy Sham, the force wrote that violence during and after similar rallies applied for by the coalition was one of their considerations in objecting to the march.
“Due to persisting social unrest, Hong Kong police have cautiously assessed the risks and believe that some participants of this public assembly and public procession may depart from the planned rally location and marching route and violently vandalise buildings as listed above,” they wrote.
“They may pose a severe threat to the safety of other participants, citizens, journalists and police officers and you do not have the capacity to control their acts,” the letter read.
In May, Beijing announced a draft national security law — which will bypass Hong Kong’s legislature — to tackle “terrorism” and “separatism” in a restless city it now regards as a direct national security threat.
The law would enforce punishment for subversion and other offences in Hong Kong, but critics see it as potential knock-out blow for freedoms and autonomy enjoyed by the city.
The city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has denied any political considerations in enforcing social distancing measures after facing questions over why protests were consistency banned but the annual book fair, theme parks and swimming pools have been allowed to reopen.