This photo taken on 5 March 2023 shows police keeping watch on a street in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong, after the Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association had cancelled a planned march in the area. A Hong Kong women’s rights group said on 8 March it had called off what would have been a rare authorised protest after its representatives had been summoned numerous times for meetings with the police/Peter Parks/AFP.

HONG KONG, CHINA — A Hong Kong women’s rights group said Wednesday it had called off what would have been a rare authorised protest after its representatives had been summoned numerous times for meetings with the police.

The Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association (HKWWA) had been granted authorisation to hold a demonstration on 5 March, but then abruptly cancelled the night before, offering no reason.

On Wednesday, the group said “police asked to meet us a number of times” after it received approval for the march.

“The action was in the first place granted a letter of no objection by the police,” HKWWA said in a statement.

“The association tried its best to amend the agreement with the police in order to make the action take place. However, the result was not what we had hoped for.

“We could not hold the march and rally for women to speak out.”

Asked by AFP if they had pressured the HKWWA, police said at a 4 March press conference that they “respect the decision of the organisers”.

Hong Kong previously saw frequent public demonstrations and protests, but those came to an end after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in 2020 to stamp out widespread, and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests.

Group gatherings were also banned for more than two years under protracted pandemic restrictions that started to be relaxed at the end of 2022.

After the HKWWA cancelled the women’s march, police said that anyone taking part would be considered in violation of unlawful assembly laws.

According to the organisers, “groups and citizens who supported us were also pressured and warned”.

Those appear to have included the leftist League of Social Democrats, which said its members were threatened with arrest by national security police if they joined the march.

The HKWWA vowed on International Women’s Day, to continue fighting for gender equality and women’s labour rights.

“Our only choice is to continue and persevere: solidarity, mutual assistance, speaking out.”

— AFP

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