SCMP Monday, October 9, 2000

Marchers defy protest law


About 1,000 people defied police warnings yesterday and took to the streets to protest against a law that prohibits large public assemblies unless police are notified.
Teachers and parents joined former student activists in yesterday's march from Wan Chai to Central. It was the second such march in a week. About 400 protesters demonstrated last Monday.
On both occasions the organisers refused to formally notify the police. An organiser of yesterday's protest, Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, former secretary-general of the Federation of Students, said the protesters would march again unless the Government listened to their demands.
"We shall not observe any evil law. We did not seek police approval this time and we shall not do so in the future. We are prepared to face the consequences and will exhaust all channels to express our discontent," Mr Tsoi said.
Protesters wanted the Government to review the law that requires police to be notified of marches of more than 30 people or assemblies of more than 50. They also demanded the Government stop pursuing the "illegal assembly" case in which student protesters were arrested at a right-of-abode demonstration in June. Last week, the Government dropped another case involving a student protest in April.
Chanting slogans and waving banners, the protesters marched to Central Government Offices. They burned a mock copy of the Public Order Ordinance. Police shouted warnings, but were drowned out.
The two-hour march was largely peaceful, although at one point scuffles broke out as some onlookers verbally abused the protesters, accusing them of "disturbing Hong Kong's stability". One onlooker was escorted away by police after a fierce argument with protesters.
Cheung Man-kwong, among marching pro-democracy legislators, said: "The ordinance infringes on basic human rights and must be reviewed."
The ordinance was passed after the handover by the Beijing-appointed provisional legislature, when pro-democracy legislators were not represented.
The Government said applications for protests were necessary because Hong Kong was small and liaison was needed. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has said he sees no need to review the ordinance. The Confederation of Trade Union plans another march next Sunday.