By Evan Fowler
Three days ago a group calling itself the Alliance for Peace and Democracy staged a march in Hong Kong against Occupy Central with Love and Peace, which has threatened to occupy the streets of Central as an act of civil disobedience if the Hong Kong government does not propose to Beijing a model of democratic reform that meets “international standards” and is representative of the views of the Hong Kong people as decided by a referendum.
The APD, an alliance between pro-establishment or pro-Beijing associations, was formed in reaction to the unexpectedly high turnout for an Occupy referendum in June and the July 1 pro-democracy rally. The alliance claims that Hong Kong is being “blackmailed” by a minority and has positioned itself as representative of the majority of citizens who did not take part in the pro-democracy movements.
To justify their position the alliance sought to run its own petition, a referendum or vote being politically sensitive, and to stage their own march. They insisted on designing and running the petition themselves. Children were asked to sign; employers pressured their employees into voting; and tourists and foreign nationals were asked to sign up for “peace”. No measures were taken to prevent double voting. Widespread reports of cash being offered for signatures were countered by the APD stating that gifts were “acceptable”. After a month they claimed 1.23 million signatures, significantly more than 800,000 who voted in the Occupy referendum. However the alliance has refused to allow an audit.
The march on Aug. 17 promised to shine a light on exactly who supported the alliance. The march would follow the same route as the July 1 pro-democracy demonstration, beginning in Victoria Park and ending in Central. I joined them.
I first noticed the difference between them and the July 1 marchers at Admiralty MTR station. Several large groups of 50 or more people, usually dressed in matching association shirts, were being shepherded by group leaders. Like a tour group the people congregated around a flag or some other marker. Their day as a group had started much earlier.
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