Police arrest 13 protesters at former Star Ferry pier

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

Thirteen protesters opposing the destruction of the former Star Ferry pier were arrested for obstructing the police in conducting their duties yesterday - an action they condemned as hindering their right to protect the city's heritage.

The group of eight men and five women - including university students, social workers and an environmental protection activist - were taken to North Point police station after confrontations with the police in the protest at the pier early yesterday.

A 24-year-old university student, Chan King-fai, faced an additional accusation of public indecency arising from words he spoke over a loudspeaker during the protest. All were allowed bail of HK$300.

Their arrests came as their last-minute efforts to the save the pier seemed doomed to failure, with Permanent Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Mak Chai-kwong dismissing any alternative proposal to keep the pier and its clock tower.

He said the suggestions to preserve the two at the present site were 'impractical' because roads were already planned for the site. Mr Mak said it would be technically difficult to alter the project, as the underground works for the airport railway's extended overrun tunnel and the extension of a drainage box culvert would also be affected.

Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping said the government had heard the public concerns on the decision to demolish the pier and would review the existing consultation channels.

The protesters spent seven hours in the police station after their arrest.

They said they would not give up their demands to meet the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, and would persist in efforts to stop the demolition.

They chanted the slogan 'Keep the Star Ferry pier in its existing site' soon after they walked out of the police station.

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. 'That was why they kicked us out of the site, just like they had kicked us out from engaging in the discussion on the Star Ferry project earlier on.'

The protesters - most of whom learned of the campaign via the internet and joined in as individuals - said they were well aware of what they were doing and would take responsibility for their own actions, including facing criminal charges.