Thursday, 11 May 2017

Bad Bureaucratic Optics

Every July 1, marcher congregate at Victoria Park -- what about this year?
 Every year on July 1, Hong Kong celebrates another anniversary of its handover back to China, and pro-democracy activists mark the occasion with an annual protest march.

Since 2003, it always starts from Victoria Park and I've participated in a few.

But this year with the 20th anniversary of the handover and Chinese President Xi Jinping expected to visit for the festivities, it looks like the Hong Kong government is not taking any chances in terms of dissent.

Xi Jinping's possible visit is making the government anxious
Instead of allowing the Civil Human Rights Front to stage its yearly march, the space in Victoria Park will be given to HongKong Celebrations Association, which is comprised of 40 pro-Beijing groups, including business chambers, and the Federation of Trade Unions.

A fun fact is that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing's liaison office, are its honorary patrons.

Au Nok-hin, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, queried the decision by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which is responsible for allocating the venue.

"A department member of staff called us telling us that they would allocate the football pitch to another group based on an internal guideline, which said if two groups applied for using the same venue at the same time, consideration would be based on the 'nature of the organization'." says Au.

"Is the government trying to shut out opposing voices when the state leader is in town? Is it only allowing celebrations but no demonstration? I don't rule out political factors are in play," Au added.

Zhang (l) and Leung have links to Federation of Trade Unions
Previously, the pro-Beijing group would apply to use the space in the morning, and the Civil Human Rights Front could use Victoria Park in the afternoon. However this time, HongKong Celebrations Association has applied to use the space all day. Au says it is an obvious ploy to prevent the pro-democracy activists from congregating and marching.

Apparently the decision is not security related, as a police inside source told the media that the annual pro-democracy march had been flagged as a possible security problem, but the police had no objections.

Another interesting thing to note is that anyone who wishes to put in an application to use the space, must do so three months before the date. Civil Human Rights Front did so in April, while the pro-Beijing group submitted theirs on March 15.

The optics aren't good in this case -- the government is just adding fuel to the fire. So much for supposedly trying to foster harmony in the community. It seems one-sided.

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