Activists find doors shut at Government House open day

A range of campaigners, from pupils defending press freedom to HKTV staff bearing wreaths, find themselves ejected or denied entry

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 March, 2014, 3:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 3:37am

Activists, secondary school students and HKTV staff members were involved in a row with the government yesterday over its definition of "protest props" after being denied entry to, or asked to leave, the Government House open day yesterday.

Members of Hong Kong People First and a group made up of veteran activists and employees of Ricky Wong Wai-kay's Hong Kong Television Network were all denied entry because they had what were considered protest props with them.

And a group of 10 secondary school pupils were ejected from the mansion on Government Hill, Central, after trying to leave blue ribbons - a symbol of support for press freedom - inside.

"They never told us how they define protest props," said Horatio Tsoi Kam-yuen, a producer at HKTV, who was there with about a dozen other activists carrying wreaths bearing the words "In memory of one country, two systems" or "In memory of the spirit of Hong Kong".

"The wreath represents how I feel today and I want to carry it with me, just as reporters sport the blue ribbon to show their support for press freedom," said Tsoi. The group was again denied entry to the chief executive's official residence, even after its members agreed to leave the wreaths outside.

"Government House admits only members of the public. Please leave now," said an officer from the Chief Executive's Office, via a loudspeaker, when the group was stopped at the entrance.

In a written reply to media inquiries, the office said visitors to Government House were not allowed to shout, display slogans or engage in any activity that disrupts public order.

Any person who breached such rules would be asked to leave or denied entrance, it added.

Earlier, five activists from Hong Kong People First who had hoped to "display the colonial-era flag in Government House" were denied entrance after the flags were uncovered in a search of their bags.

"We've done nothing and we're not even inside yet, at least you should give us an explanation," said Billy Chiu Hin-chung, a member of the group.

Officers from the Chief Executive's Office said no protest props were allowed inside Government House and that anyone wishing to protest should confine themselves to the designated protest area outside the building.

"Don't take away our press freedom!" chanted the secondary school students, raising their hands as they were led out of the venue.

The students ended their protest after tying blue ribbons to barricades outside the building.

Kelvin Yu, a Form Five student, said the pupils were all from the same secondary school in Wan Chai and had formed an action group after the attack on the former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to on February 26. "[We were] shocked that such a brutal attack could happen to a journalist," Yu said.