HSBC invites occupiers to unoccupy plaza

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2012, 12:00am


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HSBC has asked anti-capitalist campaigners who have been occupying the plaza under its Central offices for more than six months to leave voluntarily, to make way for a series of community activities.

The 'Occupy Central' protest camp was set up in October as part of an international wave of anti-capitalist protests. Bank chiefs say they hope the group will move on after a 'friendly and amicable' conversation on Tuesday. Protesters told bank staff they needed time to come to a decision.

In a note posted on the bank's intranet, HSBC's head of communications for Hong Kong, Gareth Hewett, said: 'In preparation for a number of community events in the plaza at HSBC Main Building later in the year, we have formally asked the occupiers to vacate the area voluntarily and we are offering support to remove their possessions ... We continue to work with the authorities regarding the matter.'

Some 500 people joined the camp at its peak, and as of yesterday 20 tents were pitched at the site. The camp is one of many set up around the world in response to the 'Occupy Wall Street' campaign in New York.

'We would like them to leave voluntarily,' Hewett said. 'The plaza is the private property of the bank. It was designated as a public passage in an agreement with the government in 1983. People can use it to pass through.'

The bank was forced to cancel its annual Halloween charity fund-raisers in the square in October, shortly after the protesters moved in, due to 'safety and security' concerns.

Jaco Chow Nok-hang, 28, a member of an underground radio station, who has been at the site since the start, said the bank staff, who came across as friendly, told the occupants they needed the site for community events.

'We need discussions before reaching a decision ... I myself want to stay, as do most of the others,' Chow said.

Another campaigner, Denise Wong Wan-sze, 28, said the group did not regard the campaign as a failure. 'We got a few dozen people together and we knew we would not topple capitalism. But we did let people know the problems with it.'

She said she would stay if the majority of the group decided to, adding: 'The most the [bank] could do is to call the police. I'm not afraid of police. Confrontations are not something unfamiliar to me.'

Hewett said the bank had no timeline for the camp's removal. Asked what HSBC would do if the occupants did not move, He said: 'We'll work with the relevant authorities.'