Pro-democracy activists stage protest in HK downtown area


HONG KONG, AP

About 150 pro-democracy activists rallied near the legislature Saturday to protest what they alleged was high-handed police action in curbing demonstrations during a recently concluded global economic conference.

Carrying placards reading “protesting excessive police force” and “police have unlimited power,” the protesters got into a shouting match with police officers who refused to allow them to drive a van for a planned march because police said the vehicle was unsafe as it was carrying loudspeakers, banners and wooden planks.

One of the demonstrators, lawmaker Cyd Ho, said the police were using “unnecessary tactics to prevent people from expressing their views.”

After a delay of nearly two hours because of the dispute over the van, the demonstrators marched to the nearby police headquarters without the vehicle, chanting slogans and singing, “We Shall Overcome.”

A number of the protesters brought along a dummy coffin emblazoned with the words, “Hong Kong government and police force rest in peace”.

The activists said they were protesting against government officials who allowed “police to use excuse force to protect the tycoons,” a reference to the businessmen who attended the Fortune Global Forum here earlier this week.

Among those who attended the three day forum were Chinese President Jiang Zemin and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Police have charged three activists with obstructing police during the forum. About 100 members of the meditation sect Falun Gong, which is banned on the Chinese mainland, were also barred from entering the territory.

The demonstrators also demanded that police drop the charges against the three activists, who the police said incited trouble despite “repetitive warnings.”

Hong Kong rolled out massive security during the economic conference, deploying 3,000 police officers — more than those who were on duty during the British handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

Cheung Chi-sum, the assistant police commissioner for operations, said on a radio show Saturday that the police have been doing everything according to the rule of law and balancing the need of over 4,000 protesters during the forum.

The security arrangement were taken by the Hong Kong police force, without any pressure from the Hong Kong government or mainland Chinese authorities, Cheung said.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said Saturday in a statement that the police “have exercised restraint and understanding” and enabled “a large number of organizations to express their views without causing inconvenience to the public”.

“I have never seen any protesters throwing anything, not even a piece of pebble,” said Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, “All these protests don’t constitute any high-risk factor, it is the Hong Kong’s political system which is at great risk.”