July 1 Hong Kong Protesters Cling to Belief in Freedom and Democracy

By Penny Zhou

The July 1 protest in Hong Kong ended with police firing tear gas and dispersing protesters in the street after some demonstrators illegally broke into the legislative council.

The daytime march, however, was peaceful.

According to the organizers, over 550,000 people joined the parade.

Organizers of Hong Kong’s annual march on July 1 said that over 550,000 people took part, breaking the record in 2014. (NTD)
Organizers of Hong Kong’s annual march on July 1 said that over 550,000 people took part, breaking the record in 2014. (NTD)

Some say the peaceful appeal is the true spirit of Hong Kong.

“The media is reporting that there have been clashes at the legislative council. But if you look at here, almost 1 million people are marching so peacefully behind me,” said Hong Kong current affairs commentator Sang Pu, who is also one of the voluntary lawyers for the 2014 Umbrella Movement protesters.

“It’s peaceful, rational, and non-violent,” he said, “No stores were set on fire, no public facilities were damaged. I think this is the real backbone of Hong Kong. And also because of this attitude, our fight against the Chinese Communist Party will continue until the party is disintegrated.”

Protesters use the flashlights from their phones as they march on July 1, 2019. (NTD)
Protesters use the flashlights from their phones as they march on July 1, 2019. (NTD)

Others say the power disparity between the government and protesters is clear, and for Hong Kong residents, there is nothing else to hold onto, but their belief in freedom and democracy.

“The Hong Kong government may keep promoting bills that we don’t want,” said Ming Li, a lecturer at the Education University of Hong Kong, “but our belief won’t be silenced by their rubber bullets and tear gas. Our belief is the only thing we have, and we need to preserve it. This is why we have hope.”

HONG KONG-protest july 1
Protesters attend the annual pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong on the 22nd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China, on July 1, 2019. (Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images)

The Hong Kong government has responded with strong words to the group of protesters who broke into the legislature building, saying that they “jeopardized the safety of police officers and the public.”

HK Protesters break into LegCo
Protesters smash glass doors and windows to break into the parliament chamber of Legislative Council Complex protest against the extradition bill in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)

And the government may have already started to take action against the protesters. According to the local broadcaster RTHK, police stopped a red minibus headed for Mong Kok following the break into the LegCo building. Passengers wearing black were asked to remove their masks, after which their bags were searched and their HK identity cards recorded.