Security review at Hong Kong's Legco recommends searches of reporters

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 March, 2015, 5:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 March, 2015, 5:06pm

Stronger new security measures at Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in light of several violent clashes at its premises may include checks on everyone entering the building – including members of the media.

Legco Secretary General Kenneth Chen Wei-on said today that a security advisor’s report recommended security checks on everyone going into the council apart from lawmakers, putting up gates at three building entrances, and adding a voice-recording function to CCTV cameras at the covered area in front of the north entrance.

Another point of discussion was whether to cap the number of working permit passes each lawmaker is allowed to apply for.

However, Chen reiterated that the heightened measures would only be implemented during a “yellow danger code”, when security personnel detect a hostile and possibly violent group to be near the council complex.

Raising the danger code to yellow would require approval from the chairmen of the council commission and the agenda-setting house committee, as well as calling in police to standby.

“It is only during special cases when this would happen,” Chen said. But he acknowledged that it would be during this time when the media would be most active and busy – when security checks may delay reporting work.

Security checks would mean that reporters, cameramen and photojournalists rushing in and out of the building – especially during breaking news events like the Occupy movement – would need to go through bag searches before they could enter the building.

“I understand the concerns of the media, but there needs to be a balance in order to ensure safety,” said Chen when reporters questioned the move – something which even the Central Government Offices in Tamar does not implement.

He promised to reflect the media’s concern over the security checks to the council commission. The recommendations need to be approved by the commission before they can be implemented.

On June 13 last year a group of protesters attempted to storm the Legco building during a debate on a funding request for engineering works linked to plans to build two new towns in the northeastern New Territories.

On November 19, at the height of the Occupy movement, a group of masked men, using bricks and metal railings, smashed two glass doors at the building.

Hundreds of Occupy protesters flocked to the scene shortly after in a show of support for the masked men. The ensuing chaos prompted police to charge at them with batons and pepper spray.