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Thursday, Apr 25, 2024

Hong Kong women’s rights group breaks silence over abrupt decision to cancel rally

Hong Kong women’s rights group breaks silence over abrupt decision to cancel rally

Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association says it received no-objection letter from police, but still decided to cancel demonstration.

A women’s rights group in Hong Kong that abruptly called off a planned rally for last Sunday has broken its silence over the decision, saying it could not satisfy police demands despite repeated attempts to revise its plans.

The Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association on Wednesday said some of its supporters had faced pressure and received warnings from authorities against participating in the rights demonstration.

The group described its decision to cancel the event as “difficult”, adding it could not satisfy police requirements despite “numerous” meetings and repeated attempts to change its plans.

Police officers in Wan Chai, the proposed starting point for the women’s rights event which was called off on Saturday.

“We had received the no-objection letter from police earlier, but we could not go ahead as planned. We express our regrets,” the group’s executive director Meilin Wu said.

After the association announced on Saturday its decision to cancel the march, police said violent groups could have joined the demonstration. But Wu declined to comment on whether the force had pressured the group to call off the event.

The group also did not disclose the conditions the force had listed in its letter of no objection.

The association in a statement said: “We had been looking forward to going out together on March 5 with friends who support women’s rights and making our voices heard.

“But eventually the event had to be cancelled. It was a very difficult decision. We feel resigned and regretful.”

It added: “Some groups or individuals who support us have faced pressure and received warnings. We felt very angry, resigned, sad and frustrated. But feeling sad for one day is long enough.”

The League of Social Democrats, an opposition political group, claimed on Sunday that four of its members had received notices from national security police warning them not to join the association’s march.

The demonstration would have been one of the first authorised rallies in Hong Kong in three years, as the government banned large public gatherings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a rule lifted in December.

The association planned the march, from Southorn Playground in Wan Chai to the government headquarters in Tamar, ahead of International Women’s Day on Wednesday, with the aim of promoting labour rights, women’s rights and gender equality.

Wu said the group would continue voicing support for women’s rights and organise public activities on “appropriate occasions”.

She said: “It’s not the end of our work. We will continue promoting women’s and workers’ rights and if there are appropriate occasions in the future, we may still plan to organise public activities, not necessarily in the form of a protest or rally.”

Wu declined to say if the association would plan a public event on Labour Day in May.

The association was previously a member of the now-disbanded Civil Human Rights Front but left the coalition in 2021.

The front organised the city’s largest protests and marches, including the July 1 rally in 2003 that saw half a million people participate. During anti-government protests in 2019 sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill, the front was accused of being responsible for violent clashes between protesters and police after the end of several demonstrations.


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