Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy group has vowed to keep a mass protest on Sunday peaceful by reducing direct contact between marchers and police.
The Civil Human Rights Front, which was behind two peaceful marches in June against the now-withdrawn extradition bill – which it estimated drew more than 1 million and 2 million people, respectively – received its first police approval for a protest on Hong Kong Island since mid-August on Thursday.
The Sunday march will coincide with the UN’s Human Rights Day. Marchers are expected to call for an independent probe into claims of police brutality during the social unrest of the past six months.
The front’s convenor, Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, called on Friday for marchers to not argue with police officers, and leave communication with the force to the group’s about 200 marshals.
“If the turnout is too big and Hennessy Road’s westbound lanes ... are not enough for the march to go smoothly, our marshals will coordinate with police to open up more roads,” Sham said.
The front had told the force it expected 32,000 people to join the march.
“We hope marchers can give some time to the front ... and reduce contact with the police.”
Sham urged police officers to exercise restraint and maintain communication with the front.
The convenor also said he believed hard-core protesters would consider the elderly and people with disabilities among marchers, and try to keep the procession peaceful, adding that the front would arrange for marchers to disperse at the Central end point.
“They know when to do what,” Sham said, adding that the front would have no choice but to end the march if police ordered it.
To echo the message of Human Rights Day, Sham called on Hongkongers to voice support for people facing humanitarian crises around the world, such as human rights activists and Tibetans in mainland China, and Kurds in Turkey.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan, the current convenor of the Legislative Council’s pro-democracy bloc, remarked that the Sunday march would come half a year after the first of the front’s major peaceful marches in June.
“I hope on Sunday we can use a peaceful, rational and non-violent way to press on with the five demands,” Chan said, referring to popular calls among protesters and the wider public to democratise local elections and grant amnesty to those arrested during the protests, as well as other demands.
According to the letter of no objection from the police to the front, the march will set off from Victoria Park, Causeway Bay at 3pm on Sunday.
Marchers can gather at the park from noon, before heading to Chater Road in Central via Hennessy Road and Queen’s Road Central.
The procession is scheduled to end by 10pm.
Police had previously expressed concerns over a potential “breach of peace” and other unlawful acts, and asked the front to take measures to ensure the event would be conducted in a lawful and orderly manner.
Senior Superintendent Ng Lok-chun, who oversees police operations on Hong Kong Island, warned on Friday that the force could axe the march if there is any violence, adding that officers would only use tear gas or firearms if necessary.
“We will try our best to give enough warning and communicate with the marshals at the scene, to tell people that this procession is no longer safe and ask them to disperse immediately,” he said.
He refused to say how many officers would be deployed on Sunday to police the march.
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