Amid the rising tide of anti-extradition sentiment, Hong Kong faces a hectic schedule of events on July 1 to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day.
For the second time in history, students and uniformed youth groups are not invited to attend the important flag-raising ceremony at Golden Bauhinia Square because of safety concerns, according to a Home Affairs Bureau statement on Thursday.
The last time Hong Kong youngsters were not invited was the National Day of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 2014.
The government’s cadet corps Auxiliary Medical Service and Civil Aid Service, along with other non-governmental uniformed youth groups including the Boys’ Brigade, Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Red Cross, the Scout Association of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Sea Cadet Corps told the media that they were no longer required to send representatives to the ceremony this year, Sing Tao Daily reported.
The bureau canceled their participation after calls emerged online for protesters to gather at the site of the ceremony on the previous night to disrupt the flag-raising. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has not been seen in public since her “most sincere” apology speech at a government press conference on June 18 after the two-million-strong protest, would have to attend along with former city heads.
Nevertheless, public protests have long become an unavoidable part of the annual event, with the question being how large the protest will be this year with rising demands to retract the extradition bill.
Hong Kong police said contingencies would be in place, including setting up two-meter high water-filled barricades around the square which will be guarded by significant numbers of police who will conduct frequent interceptions of suspicious persons.
It was also rumored that the flag-raising ceremony would be conducted inside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in the worst-case scenario.
Separately, the Civil Human Rights Front made a public appeal on social media for all members of the public to participate in a July 1 march with the central themes on “No Extradition to China, Carrie Lam Step Down” and sub-themes on restarting electoral reform, releasing all political prisoners, retracting the riot accusation and an independent investigation into the crackdown.
The demonstration was scheduled to start at 2:30pm from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to the Central Government Offices in Admiralty.