Hong Kong's civil servants have announced their plans to rally on the streets on Friday, Aug. 2, throwing their weight behind the protesters' demands to the government.
Civil servants want government to restore people's trust in them
According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), the march is expected to take place at Chater Garden in Central, which is located directly east of the Legislative Council building.
As many as 2,000 people could turn up, including both government workers and activists.
Michael Ngan Mo-chau, one of the the rally's organisers, told SCMP the group is marching to urge Chief Executive Carrie Lam to restore people's trust in the government by responding to the five demands made by protesters.
The demands are:
- To completely withdraw the extradition bill
- Stop classifying the clashes between police and protesters as "riots"
- Drop charges against all arrested demonstrators
- Order an independent inquiry into the police use of force against protesters
- Relaunch the stalled electoral reform process
Rare for civil servants to demonstrate
While the Civil Service Code does not stop civil servants from joining political activities, it still requires them to adhere to the general principle of political neutrality.
It is also rare for civil servants in Hong Kong to take to the streets over political issues.
Ngan told SCMP that while they believe that civil servants should uphold political neutrality when performing duties, it does not mean they are "deprived of the right to make [their] voice heard on political issues or social injustice".
They are also citizens of Hong Kong underneath their uniforms, he added.
But while they plan to march on the streets, they have no intention of disclosing their identities.
A government worker, who chose to remain anonymous, said he and some others planned to wear masks to avoid being identified by supervisors, police or the general public.
Hundreds sign open letter to Hong Kong government
About 100 Administrative Officers (AOs) expressed the same in an open letter (English version available) as well, urging the government to "listen to the voice of Hongkongers with a benevolent and generous attitude".
While they said they have never forgotten the importance of upholding their political neutrality as AOs, they feel the "obligation to voice out in a bid to guard the government’s credibility and respectability".
"It will pain us if we are to see the image of civil servants built across decades be destroyed in a flash," the letter read.
In addition, about 400 Executive Officers (EOs) wrote an open letter addressed to Hongkongers, the media, the CE, all members of the Executive Council, all politically appointed officials, as well as Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force.Saying the CE and related government officials have failed to bear responsibility for solving the problems, they also condemned the police force for having possibly colluded with the triad-linked mob, while reiterating they would remain impartial and serve the Hong Kong society.
Sign of deepening political crisis
While the rally is unprecedented, it is yet another sign of the Hong Kong people's dissatisfaction towards the government's handling of the issues, such as the extradition bill that has since been declared "dead" by Lam.
Former civil service minister, Joseph Wong Wing-ping, told SCMP that the civil servants are publicly disavowing the government's handling of the proposed extradition bill and the protests.
"This is a blow to the government's credibility and an embarrassment," he said.
Not all agree
However, not all government workers approved of the planned march, with some concerned that it would affect public perception of the civil servants' political neutrality, according to SCMP.
Some civil servants posted pictures of their demands pasted on their name cards, but with information that would give their identities away, such as their names and departments, covered up.The police on the frontlines also appear to stand on the opposite side.
A police officer has voiced out against the protesters, calling them cockroaches who are trying to kill him despite him not doing anything wrong.
He also criticised the civil servants who "sit in their air-conditioned rooms", saying the civil servants are the ones who are the "least qualified" to criticise the police, who have to endure the attacks from protesters.
Police officers have also criticised Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Hong Kong's No. 2 official, for apologising for the government's failure in stopping the assault in Yuen Long, and for saying the police's handling of the incident has fallen short of the public's expectations.
Expects to receive letter of no objection
While Ngan said they are still awaiting a letter of no objection from the police, he is still confident of getting it.
According to the Hong Kong Free Press, anyone who wants to organise a public procession in Hong Kong must apply for a police letter of no objection.
While it is rare that protests are banned directly, restrictions have been placed on demonstrations twice in the week before.
Ngan added that the rally is going to be peaceful, and that they do not want to see any clashes between the demonstrators and the police.
In addition, 50 to 80 volunteers would marshall the crowd to maintain order during the march.