HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - Hong Kong police banned a protest set for Saturday (Aug 31) by the organiser of previous historic mass marches, the group said, a move that could fuel protesters' anger as the city heads into a planned 13th straight week of pro-democracy demonstrations.
Police believe approving the Civil Human Rights Front's latest march was too risky due to safety concerns after violence flared at rallies last weekend, the South China Morning Post reported, citing an unidentified police source.
Ms Bonnie Leung, CHRF's vice-convener, told Bloomberg News that police had banned the Saturday rally and the group was planning to appeal.
The ban could fuel turnout at a two-day general strike called to start next Monday if the government doesn't concede to its major demands by Saturday, the SCMP said.
It could also trigger further outcry, as the rally was planned for the fifth anniversary of China's introduction of an electoral reform package that would have restricted democratic freedoms and was later rejected by Hong Kong.
Hong Kong police said they couldn't intermediately comment on the ban.
The CHRF, responsible for the largest rallies the city has seen in decades, said they would appeal the decision.
The group's leader Jimmy Sham said he was attacked on Thursday (Aug 29) as he ate lunch by two “masked men armed with a baseball bat and a long knife”, but escaped unhurt.
The march had been planned to start at centrally located Chater Garden and continue on to China's liaison office in the city, where Hong Kong's police and Beijing have drawn their sharpest line after a previous demonstration saw protesters deface the national emblem.
Hong Kong's former leader Leung Chun Ying is promoting a website offering crowd-funded cash bounties to identify protesters who have committed vandalism, including HK$1 million (S$177,000) for the person who splashed black paint on the emblem.
The CHRF has organised three record-breaking peaceful marches over weeks of protests, including the June 9 rally against legislation easing extraditions to China that sparked a movement that has morphed into a broader demonstration against Beijing's tightening grip over the city.
The group said each march brought more than a million people onto the streets, while police estimates are lower, in the hundreds of thousands.
Its latest march would come after a weekend that began with the formation of a peaceful human chain across the city and culminated two days later with police firing a weapon and using water cannons for the first time.
Officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at protesters who threw bricks and petrol bombs in the Tsuen Wan area of the New Territories and charged police with metal poles. Police said 86 people were arrested for alleged offences including unlawful assembly, possession of weapons and assaulting officers.