Annual July 1 march puts freedom of speech in the spotlight

Annual July 1 march puts freedom of speech in the spotlight

Lam Wing-kee, the Causeway Bay Books shop manager, pulled out of leading the procession, citing safety concerns

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Protesters marching in Wan Chai.
Photo: Felix Wong/SCMP

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Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho said Lam decided to pull out because he had been followed by strangers over the past few days.
Photo: K.Y. Cheng/SCMP

Thousands of protesters expressed anger, fears and doubts over “one country, two systems” in the annual July 1 march today, fuelled by the missing booksellers saga.

Lam Wing-kee, the Causeway Bay Books store manager who went missing for eight months and returned to the city last month claiming he was abducted by mainland agents, pulled out of leading this year’s pro-democracy march from Victoria Park to Admiralty, citing a “serious threat” to his personal safety.

Lam’s account of what happened to him has raised questions about the Hong Kong government’s ability to protect residents from the reach of mainland agents.

“We’re all Lam Wing-kee,” shouted Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan.

Journalist Ching Cheong and activist Liu Shanqing, two other Hongkongers who were detained on the mainland for political reasons, were invited to jointly lead the procession.


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Yet the march was also dismissed as “ritualistic” by pro-democracy localist groups.

The Hong Kong National Party, Hong Kong Indigenous and Youngspiration have criticised the march as pointless, despite its calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Separate from the march, the three groups planned to stage additional, confrontational events at the central government’s liaison office at 7pm to demand independence for the city.

Organiser Civil Human Rights Front introduced the nine sub-topics of the march in Victoria Park, including the abolishment of functional constituency, the withdrawal of 831 framework, universal retirement protection scheme, standard working hours, halting white elephant projects, sexual orientation discrimination ordinance legislation, repurchase of public entities, racial discrimination.

The student union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong posted a message on Facebook calling on Hongkongers to join the gathering on a day it said marked “the fall of Hong Kong”.

Police earlier said they were ready to deploy 2,000 officers to monitor the march and the subsequent protest.

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