• Sat
  • Oct 25, 2014
  • Updated: 12:26pm
NewsHong Kong

Popular protest spot Civic Square closed for security works, public access limited

Access to 'Civic Square' forecourt to be blocked at night as security measure, but campaigners complain it is a blow to freedom of assembly

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 2:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 1:31pm

A three-metre-high fence is being built outside the government's headquarters amid security fears after several mass protests.

Critics attacked the measure, saying it undermined the right to freedom of assembly. The fence will block what used to be free access to the forecourt, or "Civic Square" as protesters call it, in front of the east-wing entrance to the Tamar site in Admiralty.


When work is completed, a rule will be introduced denying unauthorised people access to the square between 11pm and 6am. Fences will also be built to separate the forecourt from the Legco complex. Anti-collision barriers will be erected in other locations.

But mass protests will be allowed in the square on public holidays and Sundays with prior consent from the director of the Administration Wing.

Officials said the fencing was necessary in light of recent protests outside the Legco complex against plans to build two new towns in the New Territories.

On one occasion protesters used bamboo poles to try to pry open the doors to the complex.

"A review of the existing security arrangements revealed it is necessary to enhance the overall capacity to withstand potential security threats to the building," a government spokesman said. Because of construction work, the forecourt area will be completely sealed off to the public throughout next month - when the Occupy Central protest is expected to kick off.

The escalator leading to the east wing from the nearby elevated walkway has also been closed temporarily, pending work to beef up security.

The 1,000-square-metre forecourt has been a focal point for protesters since the complex, designed with a "door always open" theme, was relocated from Government Hill in 2011.

Large protests or sit-ins held there included the movement against the national education curriculum and a campaign urging the government to give a broadcasting licence to HKTV.

Lawmaker Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said the government had not informed Legco of the plan. "As a matter of courtesy, it would have been better if we were notified beforehand," said Leung on Friday. 

He said it was difficult to strike a balance between security and open governance, and argued the government should explain its rationale better.

A team from the police tactical unit was deployed to the office yesterday to prevent any potential conflict after the government issued news of the fence.

The decision comes at a time of dwindling public satisfaction with the government. The University of Hong Kong public sentiment index fell 8.1 per cent to 65.9, which it described as one of the worst in 20 years.

Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said it was understandable for the government to take precautions.

But Dr Chan Kin-man, an organiser of the Occupy Central movement, said they never intended to occupy the area. "We believe it is useless to occupy the Civic Square as the administration has become numb towards the protests there," he said.

"The government is only trying to find an excuse to kill the protest zone."

Oscar Lai Man-lok, spokesman of the student-led group Scholarism, warned: "Higher and harder fences will not block public opinion."

Alex Chow Yong-kang, secretary general of the Federation of Students, said the move would prompt people to organise rallies at Chater Road in Central or other locations.

"We would make protests happen everywhere. The government can never stop us," he said.

James To Kun-sun, a Democratic Party lawmaker, said closing the square to the public at night amounted to "tightening the public's freedom of peaceful demonstration and assembly".

He added: "If the officials only want protesters to stay away from its office, it just shows how weak and afraid the government is."


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This article is now closed to comments

Most democratic governments around the world have large security fences and restrictive times for access for free assembly. See the White House for example.
Congress is open each work day, Neal. THat is where you go to speak to your legislator to make law. The supreme court is open. Hearings before the executive departments are open. Nice job sucking up to the masters in beijing. Perhaps they will give you some table scraps.
I thought I was in Israel.
So the lack of yarmulkes did not give that away?
Just call it 人民广场 and post it with PLA sentries already. It's HK's future...
I suppose this measure is needed to stop all those mainstream Hongkongers from constantly depositing bouquets of flowers, pink teddy bears, bottles of fine wine, greeting cards and countless other expressions of joy/gratitude at the government's Doorstep for the splendid job it is doing.

Heavens forbid that the Chief Nitwit would stumble over a box of chocolates and fall flat on his face.
This is another sign that the government is scared of its own people. Pre-1997 days are over, Post-1997 fences are erected around government buildings. Deaf ears, blind eyes and closed mouths seem to be the norm. Next round of fences would be Central. What's next?
Or just a prelude to the coming martial law that is needed to protect us from thinking on our own.
I always found it deliciously ironic how on the mainland if you go to any large government HQ with those ever present words REN MIN all over them, there are massive arched gateways with wu jing soldiers armed and guarding the entrance to make sure NO ONE goes in unless they either work there or are bringing a huge bag of cash
Where will the fence-building stop? This is such a backward thinking, creativity lacking, uninspired and detrimental approach to the challenge posed by angry citizens' protests.
This fence can be welcomed by those who love freedom in Hong Kong as an ideal symbol of the backwardness of the current regime.
(and I believe it is becoming increasingly appropriate to refer to them as a 'regime')




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