Helpers fear they may lose HSBC haven

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 September, 2012, 3:00am

Domestic helpers fear they might lose one of their favourite Sunday relaxation spots now the plaza under the HSBC headquarters in Central has been closed off.

The gates to the main entrances to the plaza were closed on Tuesday after the eviction of the remaining Occupy Central activists.

About 20 activists and their belongings were cleared from the site after they defied a court order on August 27 demanding they leave. One of those evicted, Leung Wing-lai, said the group was discussing its options.

Eman Villanueva, vice-chairman of the Filipino Migrant Workers' Union, said he would write to HSBC to express the group's worries and ask if the plaza would still be available for them.

"For many years, this has been our resting place, our leisure place, a place for our community," Villanueva said. "It will be very sad and bad if it's not kept open. There is not much space available for us to go elsewhere."

Yesterday, a Post reporter was able to pass through a small opening in the gates without being intercepted by guards. Tourists wandered around the plaza freely.

An HSBC spokesman said the public could enter but the gates would stay closed while cleaning of the plaza continued.

Asked if domestic helpers would be allowed to gather in the plaza on Sunday, he said the bank would review the arrangements later in the week.

According to the contractual agreement between the bank and the government, the open area of about 3,200 square metres should be open for pedestrians 24 hours a day. The bank can be taken to court if it violates the rules.

But a spokeswoman for the Buildings Department said the department would only act against the bank if it closed the area to the public without reasonable justification.

The three activists arrested for assault during the eviction were released early yesterday without being charged.