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Thursday, Apr 25, 2024

Women's rights protest cancelled after police cite risk of violence

Women's rights protest cancelled after police cite risk of violence

The Hong Kong Women Workers' Association cancelled a demonstration at the last minute after police said violent groups might want to join the protest.
It originally received approval from police for the rally today (Mar 5), in what would be one of the first authorized marches since mass protests ended in early 2020.

The association said on its Facebook page late on Saturday it had regrettably decided to cancel the march without giving a reason.

The association was originally granted permission by the police to hold a protest on Sunday ahead of International Women's Day, calling for labour rights, women's rights and gender equality. This would have been the first major civil rights protest to be approved by police in the city for several years.

China imposed a national security law on the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020, leading to most applications by pro-democracy groups for public demonstrations being rejected by the police, largely on social distancing grounds.

Asked whether the police wanted to avoid a protest which might have embarrassed Beijing during China's annual parliamentary session, the National People's Congress, Senior Superintendent Dennis Cheng told reporters the organisers decided to cancel the march after weighing up different unspecified factors.

Cheng added that some "violent groups" wanted to join the protest, without identifying the groups.

The police had previously issued a "no objection" letter with the condition that the organisers ensure the protest would not run contrary to the interests of national security. But after the organisers cancelled, police issued a statement saying anyone taking part would therefore be participating in an unauthorised event.

"Any persons who continue to assemble in the relevant locations tomorrow would be considered (to be) participating in an unauthorised assembly," the statement said, adding they would be liable to a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

The Hong Kong national security law has been criticised by some Western governments as a tool to crush dissent, but the Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the law has restored stability to the city after protracted pro-democracy protests in 2019.

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