No major rallies have been held in the city in past three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the national security law
Hong Kong residents join a street rally to celebrate the birthday of Tam Kung, a folk Chinese legend revered by fisher folks and coastal communities in this file photo. The Taoist Association canceled a street parade following a police order. (Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board)
The Hong Kong Taoist Association canceled an annual street parade and instead held an in-house rally in a playground following suggestions from the police, says a report.
The group canceled the parade following a security assessment by the police, the second such cancelation of a major gathering in the city, Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao reported on March 13.
The group, which promotes Taoism in the region, was forced to change the parade to a small rally held at Maple Street Playground in the city.
The association’s chief executive Chan Kwok Hang said they sought permission to hold the parade about six months ago, but police asked to cancel it during a discussion last week.
Chan said the association "had tried its best to cooperate with the police's request at that time, including holding a meeting to discuss the same day, and decided to change it to a rally the next day.”
Clarence Leung Wang Ching, Under Secretary of the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau, New People's Party member Eunice Yung Hoi-yan and several councilors were part of the event.
Since 2013, the association has been organizing the annual rally on the second Sunday of March to promote Taoism in Hong Kong.
Despite the parade being cut short into a smaller rally, the police had deployed its officers at the location for security. The entrance and exit of the playground and nearby streets were guarded or patrolled by uniformed and mobile unit police officers.
According to the Hong Kong Public Order Ordinance, the police must be notified of a parade with more than 30 people for religious purposes. Other public religious gatherings with lesser numbers need not be informed in advance.
Tang Ka-piu, a member of the Federation of Trade Unions in Hong Kong stated that the current situation of public gatherings is way better that the pandemic era when no gatherings were permitted.
“It is expected that society will gradually return to normal as the government intends to promote the Happy Hong Kong event, and various large-scale public events will be resumed soon in the future,” he further added.
The Happy Hong Kong initiative launched by the authorities includes carnivals, themed fairs, and gourmet marketplaces in various parts of the city-state.
Earlier, the Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association had canceled a police-approved demonstration after the police warned of “some violent groups’” plans to attend the event, Hong Kong Free Press reported on March 4.
The rally was planned by the women’s group to promote labor rights, women’s rights, and gender equality ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
The women’s association march, if conducted, would have been one of the first events of its kind following the outbreak of Covid-19 in the city over three years ago.
Protests and rallies have become a rare sight in the Beijing-administered territory following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the implementation of the national security law in 2020.
In January, secretary for security Chris Tang said the police had not approved any applications for demonstrations or rallies for three years because of health concerns, HKFP reported.
Tang also refuted allegations in the media that people were less willing to express their views following the enactment of the sweeping security legislation in June 2020.
Tang said that the Basic Law and the security law protect people’s freedom of assembly in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong chief executive John Lee said last week that if case public events threaten safety and order, the organizers had to bear the legal responsibility, HKFP reported.
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