60 minibus drivers take over Mong Kok street for protest against Occupy Central
Drivers say pro-democracy campaign will leave them out of pocket; another anti-Occupy group offers free legal advice to businesses
Brian Yap and Samuel Chan
Just over 60 minibus drivers this morning protested against the planned Occupy Central sit-in, by parking their buses the length of busy Fa Yuen Street in Mong Kok.
The protest, which lasted a few hours, was organised by the Public Light Bus General Association, which represents over 700 drivers of unregulated red minibuses as well as some drivers of regulated green minibuses.
It marks the beginning of a wider campaign involving some minibus drivers who will put anti-Occupy posters on their vehicles.
And another new anti-Occupy group says it will offer free legal advice to small and medium businesses if they are affected by the planned pro-democracy protest in Central – but the group was unclear on the details of the advice when questioned by the Post.
Last year there were 1,239 licensed red minibuses in the city and 3,107 licensed green minibuses.
The association says over 2,000 minibus drivers will be adversely affected if the pro-democracy protest camp goes ahead.
“The Occupy Central movement would be detrimental to the [livelihoods] of minibus drivers because, should Central be paralysed, those operating on routes leading to Kowloon, the New Territories and other parts of the island would lose a few days’ worth of income due to severe traffic jams, with an expected loss of over HK$400 per day,” said Ling Chi-keung, the association’s chairman.
Ling was helped by former Liberal Party lawmaker Miriam Lau Kin-yee in spearheading the campaign. The association says over 1,000 red minibuses which it owns will be involved in the campaign in the next few days.
But some passengers have already reacted angrily to the action.
“I will not stop putting up anti-Occupy posters on my minibus every time they have been ripped off by passengers or bystanders,” said Leung Yiu-ming, who drives a red minibus. “The disobedience movement would be seriously harmful to the economy.”
Occupy plans to camp out in Central if the government’s official plan for the 2017 chief executive election does not guarantee a genuine choice between candidates for voters.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for an unnamed new anti-Occupy group says it will offer free legal advice to small and medium businesses if they are affected by the pro-democracy sit-in.
Dominic Chan Choi-hi says the group, which counts two barristers as members, will advise business owners on how to apply for injunction orders against the protesters, citing as a precedent a court’s decision to end a protest camp outside HSBC’s headquarters in 2012.
“If you are always disturbing me at my doorstep, I have the right to apply for an injunction order,” Chan said.
But the group refused to comment on the likelihood that an injunction would be granted by a court against Occupy protesters.
Chan said the group would only offer advice to owners that asked for it, and that if owners took their complaints to court then the group would refer them on to “other lawyers”, to allay fears that they are seeking to profit from the service.
Chan was unclear about what grounds injunction applications would be based on.
Albert Luk Wai-hang, a barrister with experience of applying for injunction orders, said the group "may have simplified some of the legal concepts involved".
Luk, who has no connection to the group, questioned whether injunctions would be necessary if police deal with any breaches of public order.
The group cited as a precedent HSBC's legal action against anti-capitalism protesters who camped out on the ground-floor passage at the bank’s headquarters in Central for 11 months before being forced to leave by a court order in September 2012.
“HSBC was too tolerant,” said barrister Stephen Yam, part of the group’s legal team. “Some people would only go further if you are too tolerant.”
The group says it has received “considerable” interest from small businesses in Central regarding the free legal advice.
Group members added that Occupy organisers should also be liable for any loss of property or injuries resulting from the planned protest camp, saying the group is targeting organisers of the sit-in rather than participants.