Crew work through night to demolish Star Ferry pier

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2006, 12:00am

A demolition crew was working through the night to take down the former Star Ferry pier, despite a third night of protests in an attempt to save the waterfront icon.

At about 7pm demolition workers started up a crane mounted on a barge and began removing the upper tier of the pier. Soon afterwards, protesters began rallying outside the former pier for a third evening.

After a one and a half hour rally, the protesters, numbering about 20, began demanding that the site foreman show them the permit allowing demolition work overnight.

When he was unable to produce the actual permit, but only a photocopy, protesters surrounded the foreman. They scuffled with police when officers moved in to extricate the foreman.

Three hours after the rally began, legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung arrived and tried to force his way onto the work site. Police stopped him entering the site. The demonstrators kept up their protest, banging on the steel barriers surrounding the former pier with bottles and hard objects.

Late last night the protest was continuing, with six of the group saying they were going on a hunger strike. Fellow protesters said they would seek a court injunction to halt the demolition work.

Earlier, 13 protesters opposing the destruction of the former pier were arrested for obstructing the police - an action they condemned as hindering their right to protect the city's heritage.

Police are investigating a 24-year-old student, Chan King-fai, on suspicion of public indecency arising from words he spoke over a loudspeaker during the protest. All were allowed bail of HK$300.

The protesters said they would lodge formal complaints about the heavy-handed police tactics in Thursday's melee. Protester Benny Ng accused police of ignoring his demands for medical treatment.

The protesters' cause seems doomed to failure, with Permanent Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Mak Chai-kwong dismissing any proposal to keep the pier and its clock tower.

He said the suggestions to preserve the two at the present site were 'impractical'.

Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping said the government had heard the public's concerns and would review the existing consultation channels.

Mr Chan said they were just people wanting to protect the Star Ferry pier and the police should not have interfered. 'The government has a naive assumption that we are causing trouble by protesting,' he said.