As many as half a million people took to the streets on July 1 a decade ago to vent their anger against social unrest caused by government maladministration, planned legislation of a national security bill, years of poor economic performance and the outbreak of a fearsome disease, SARS.
The security bill was shelved and two ministers and then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa resigned as a result of the unexpected turnout for the march, which has now become an annual venue for public protest.
But the protests, known for calm despite a massive turnout year after year, are becoming more radical.
A small group of young people have started waiving the colonial flag during demonstrations, saying colonial Hong Kong was a fairer society that respected the rule of law than the one now in place.
Another group promotes «nativism,» championing priorities for Hong Kong people in response to shortages ranging from daily necessities to school spaces due to the influx of mainland Chinese.
«Some people put the worse slant on (anti-China sentiments) and suggest there is a movement afoot to press for independence for Hong Kong. I think that’s rubbish,» former Hong Kong No. 2 Anson Chan told Kyodo News. «If I were the government, I would sit up and take some notice instead of putting the worst slant on it and causing general alarm in Beijing.»
Already a civil disobedience movement called «Occupy Central» is planning for the July 1 event next year.
The organizers, two professors and a religious leader, aim to drum up public participation to formulate a popular democratic system and proposal for the government.
If the government fails to respond, they aim to draw at least 10,000 people to «occupy» the central business district and as a trump card to try to force change.
«The government has to ask itself, why is (law Professor) Benny Taiand and his colleagues driven to suggest this? It is because the government had failed totally to provide necessary leadership in beginning consultation on universal suffrage with a view to forging a consensus and putting together a package of proposals that will at the end of the day achieve one-man, one-vote,» Chan said. «But the more you attempt to sabotage this sort of thing, the more Hong Kong people will resist. The government should avoid driving people into having to consider such a move, by doing what it should already be doing.»
«Why is it that way back in the 1970s, (then Chinese leader) Mr. Deng Xiaoping had the vision to enshrine two systems in the Basic Law? It was because he saw very clearly that the only way to maintain Hong Kong’s long term stability and prosperity, and also enable Hong Kong to play a unique role in the country’s economic growth and modernization, was to make sure that Hong Kong’s way of life, our core values, our regard for due process, for rule of law, for the independence of the judiciary and for protecting all our right and freedoms remain intact,» Chan said, underlining her belief Hong Kong must have real democracy.