SEOUL: Human rights group Amnesty International vowed Tuesday to push ahead with a planned “Ghost Protest” in Seoul after police threatened a crackdown on the virtual rally consisting of holograms of protesters.
The group is set Wednesday night to show holograms of about 120 people chanting slogans and waving banners on a giant screen set up in central Seoul.
Amnesty said the virtual march — the second in the world after a similar event in Spain last April — would protest against what it called the growing erosion of freedom of assembly and expression in South Korea.
Seoul police chief Lee Sang-Won vowed a “stern response”, saying organizers had described it as a cultural event.
“If they show holographic images of people chanting slogans or voicing their opinions collectively, it is a public protest and has to be cracked down on,” Lee told reporters Monday.
“We… will take a stern response to prevent such illegal activities,” he said without elaborating.
Amnesty vowed to go ahead, describing the police warning as another sign of the erosion of freedom of assembly.
“We find the police response ridiculous and ironic,” Ahn Se-Young, a campaign coordinator at Amnesty Korea, said.
“The police can’t crack down on virtual images of people just because they are chanting together and voicing opinions,” she said, adding the event would be held as planned.
The holograms are expected to show people — whose images were videotaped earlier — waving banners and chanting slogans such as “Don’t stifle voices of the people”.
Critics say the conservative government of President Park Geun-Hye, daughter of the late autocratic ruler Park Chung-Hee, is slipping into authoritarian rule.
Police have come under fire for what critics describe as excessive use of force, with one South Korean left in a coma after being hit by a jet from a water cannon during an anti-government protest last November.
An UN envoy last month accused Seoul officials of using potential traffic jams and public inconvenience as an “excuse for unduly limiting rights” to publicly demonstrate.
UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai also voiced concern at a “gradual regression” on rights, noting violent police tactics used against protesters including water cannon.