HONG KONG - Police on Thursday (July 25) objected to a planned rally on Saturday in the northern district of Yuen Long, citing possible violence.
In a letter addressed to protest organiser Max Chung, police said they had reason to believe that the rally could result in possible violence because of last weekend's attacks on protesters by an armed mob in the area, as well as chatter on the Internet.
"The police commissioner has cited the need for public safety, public order and to protect the rights and freedom of others... has decided to prevent the public assembly and oppose the protest rally," said the letter.
The rally on Saturday is intended to protest against last weekend's violence. But online chatter has indicated that the protesters, mostly young people, are gearing up for a fight.
On Sunday, following a mass protest on Hong Kong Island, scores of men dressed in white and armed with sticks and batons at the rural Yuen Long metro station attacked people who were returning from the protest, leaving 45 injured. Twelve people have since been arrested in connection with the incident.
But the attacks have inflamed Hong Kongers, who blame the high number of injured on the police's slow response, amid rumours that organised crime gangs or triads were involved in the attack.
Tensions are also running high after the graves of a pro-Beijing lawmaker's parents were vandalised. Mr Junius Ho had been photographed shaking hands with men who fit the description of Sunday night's attackers.
On Wednesday, a group representing the 18 villages in Yuen Long also wrote an open letter to the police, warning that the police would be held responsible should any violence break out following the rally on Saturday.
Mr Chung said he would be appealing against the police's decision on Friday but is not confident of a positive outcome.
"I don't completely understand what they are referring to, so I'm seeking legal advice," he said, adding that even if he does not get approval for a mass gathering, he would still walk the protest route alone.
"If even as a single person and I get arrested, so be it. I'm not calling on anyone to join me at this point."
News of the police's objection was welcomed by some Yuen Long residents, who said they had written to the police calling on them to prevent the rally.
"These young people say they want to restore the glory of Yuen Long but really, there's no need for that. We've all been living very peacefully here. It's like a small-town atmosphere," said long-time resident Cathy Wong.
"I understand the youth and their grievances but some of these legislators encouraging them to come here are adults, surely they should know better."
Several other mass protests have been planned for the next three weekends.
There is also a gathering planned at the Hong Kong airport's arrival hall on Friday to spread the message to foreign visitors. The trade union representing cabin crew of Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific has encouraged members to join in Friday's action.
Several countries including Japan, South Korea and Canada have issued travel advisories for the city, while Ireland has issued a travel warning following last weekend's violence.