PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 February, 2000, 12:00am

At the Megacities 2000 conference held between February 8 and 10, at Hong Kong University, a somewhat surprisingly close interest was taken in the appearance of the Filipino community in Central on Sundays.

It was noted by one participant, with some horror, that the Government's hawker control teams were seen chasing sellers of clothing and foodstuffs as if those people were thieves.

It was suggested that the phenomenon created by the Filipino community is an integral part of Hong Kong's cultural heritage, not only that, beyond that, the assembly was seen in a very positive light as something of interest to visitors, something that adds to Hong Kong.

Also, that it filled a gap of the inner city - a problem seen worldwide - that is used simply as a business district that shuts down after business hours and over weekends, leaving a desert of dust-blown buildings. All that expense and yet, nothing.

The Hongkong Bank was given special mention, as having its ground floor as an intended gathering place by the building's architect. It was designed to be a public space. Therefore it is appropriate that it is being used in accordance with the designer's wishes by the Filipinos.

Many buildings in Central have inhibiting streamers preventing anyone sitting near their hallowed walls. Even on weekdays would-be diners are chased from fountains by alert security guards. What a shame.

It's a pity there is no person to feel that shame, as owners hide behind their own facade.

The Government and the owners of these buildings and precincts should pause to reflect on their next visit to places such as Piccadilly Circus or the parks and fountains of Paris, Rome and other European cities and bring back some of that democratic access and those simple freedoms to help ease the plight of Hong Kong where there is everything on offer, except the right attitude.

TONY HENDERSON Chairman Humanist Association of Hong Kong