Democrats may challenge plan to fence off Tamar HQ

Party says meeting records show 'Civic Square' meant to be open to the public 24 hours a day

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 4:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 4:02am

The Democrats are considering mounting a legal challenge against the government's decision to fence off the forecourt of its headquarters, saying the area was supposed to remain open to the public 24 hours a day.

The party said yesterday it had found 2011 meeting records from the Legislative Council's House Committee on transport and access arrangements for the new complex in Tamar, Admiralty. In the minutes, Helen Tang, then deputy director of administration, said lawmakers and the public would be able to access the Legco complex via the east wing forecourt - 24 hours a day. That route would only be closed on some Sundays or public holidays when there were demonstrations, for crowd control purposes, such as the annual July 1 march, Tang had said.

Democratic Party chief executive Lam Cheuk-ting said yesterday: "Bearing in mind what Tang said, the public has a reasonable expectation that the area will remain open."

Lam added that the party would study more government documents to support a possible judicial review application.

The government on Thursday announced a plan to build a three-metre-high fence outside its headquarters which would block access to the forecourt, or "Civic Square" as protesters call it, between 11pm and 6am.

A government spokesman said yesterday that the forecourt was not a public recreation area and the fencing was deemed necessary after a security review.

Several mass protests have been held outside the Legco complex recently, including against plans to build two new towns in the New Territories, and in 2012, against plans to make national education mandatory.

House Committee chairman Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said Legco had not been told about the plan. "As a matter of courtesy, it would have been better if we were notified beforehand."

Leung, who also chairs the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, said the security sector was worried about terrorism, but he did not know if that had anything to do with the move. "You can see on the mainland, terrorists … [could] spread to Guangzhou and Shenzhen. I don't know whether the government has considered that, but it's a worry in the security sector."