Marching for Democracy or Not!

Yesterday, July 1, was the 9th anniversary of the British hand-over of Hong Kong to the Chinese government. It was marked by two very different celebrations.

In the morning, 40,000 people showed up at Hong Kong Stadium for free festivities organized by the Hong Kong Government to celebrate the hand-over. Needless to say, noise abatement procedures were not in place but no one complained. Somewhat less than half joined the parade to Wanchai where the crowd dispersed.

In the afternoon, around 3:00 PM, anywhere from 28 to 50,000 people, depending on whose estimate you accept, marched from Victoria Park to Government House in Central. For the first time, Anson Chan, head of the civil service under both Chris Patten, the last British Governor and Tung Chee Wha, the first CEO of the Hong Kong SAR, joined the parade and some say was responsible for a doubling of the turnout. Most of the marchers were in favor of full free elections as opposed to the present system of only 50% of the legislature being popularly elected. The CEO is “elected” by 800 appointees of the Central Government in Beijing.

As is almost always true of Hong Kong, both marches were peaceful. Both events paled compared with their predecessors. In 1997, the celebration lasted three days and involved millions of people. This year, it took 800 organizations to give away the 40,000 free tickets. Bank of China gave HK$100 to every employee who attended the show.
In 2003, 250,000 people marched in protest against a proposed security ordinance, which served as a shadow puppet for the populace’s dissatisfaction with Mr. Tung. Last year only 21,000 people marched so this year’s turnout is an improvement.

One thing for sure, Hong Kong people continue to express themselves in ways that would be unacceptable on the mainland.