Protest area known as Civic Square outside Hong Kong government HQ will not reopen, leader CY Leung says
Chief executive cites safety concerns for decision after successor Carrie Lam earlier pledged to consider demolishing fence blocking off site that was focal point of protests
His stance stands in sharp contrast to that of his successor, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who on Sunday pledged to consider the request when she assumes office, after political parties called for the fence around the site in Admiralty to be demolished.
Speaking before an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Leung said the government had conducted a security assessment that showed it was not the time to reopen the site. He avoided saying whether he found Lam’s pledge appropriate.
“This is Lam’s decision. I believe she will do an assessment before she makes any decision,” Leung said.
“But we have to consider the safety of civil servants working at the headquarters ... Considering the situation in Hong Kong and recent attacks around the globe, it is not appropriate to reopen the complex.”
Leung also cited the design of the building and recent clashes at the headquarters to further support his decision.
“Over the years, some have lit fires outside, while some have smashed the glass door of the Legislative Council complex,” he said. “The [doors] of the headquarters are made of glass, with traffic outside. The design is different from other buildings.”
The 1,000-square-metre forecourt, dubbed “Civic Square”, became a focal point for protesters after the headquarters complex, designed with a “door always open” theme, opened in 2011.
A three-metre fence was built outside it in 2014 amid security fears after several major sit-ins, including a week-long demonstration against proposed national education classes and a campaign urging the government to award HKTV a television broadcasting licence.
In the run-up to the Occupy pro-democracy protests in 2014, students climbed over the fence in an attempt to “take back” the square, which resulted in arrests and eventually the start of the 79-day movement calling for universal suffrage.
On Sunday, Civil Human Rights Front convenor Au Nok-hin called on Lam to reopen the site as a friendly gesture to mend social rifts, vowing to try to obtain approval to hold a rally there during the front’s annual July 1 protest march.
On Monday, two major pro-establishment political parties – the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Federation of Trade Unions – echoed the call to demolish the fence outside the headquarters, which has been seen by some as a symbol of restrictions on freedom of assembly.