The right of peaceful protest is a cherished freedom found in advanced societies the world over. In post-handover Hong Kong, there has been no substantial change to this right, although we have seen some worrying signs of erosion at the margins. In a prime example, the government headquarters in Central is not as accessible to the public as it once was. Restrictions put up in the past few years include limits on journalists, stricter rules governing protests and petitioning, and the closure of gates that once allowed marchers to enter the compound. The tree-lined compound, known as the Central Government Offices, has been a popular destination for public marches. Whether the issue is education funding cuts, national security legislation or an unchecked press accused of violating the privacy of the stars it covers, the offices were usually the end point of the protests. But starting nearly two years ago, the government has pursued a policy of channelling these protests to an area away from its main entrance, and checked the ability of large groups to enter the complex. The west gate, once open during business hours, has been closed off to the public. Security and the risk of terrorist attacks have been cited as the main reasons behind these policies. These concerns should not be discounted, but there should be a way to meet security needs without sacrificing the principles of accessible government and the right to protest. There is little to gain by having our officials retreat behind impenetrable gates or by turning a once-open government headquarters into a symbol of its isolation from the people. There are some who are inclined to interpret the closing of the west gate as an act of a government that does not care to listen to public views. They point to the closure of the gate, without notice, shortly after mass demonstrations in December 2001. They note the heavy limits on the number of petitioners now allowed into the compound. As for media access, the government has backed away from restricting the numbers allowed from any one news organisation, but kept its recently instituted registration policy. Coupled with restrictions on large group gatherings to an area outside the compound, this leaves the impression of an administration that cultivates isolation rather than engagement with the public. This impression could be easily reversed, by assuring the citizens of Hong Kong that their access to government headquarters will be maintained at the maximum possible level. Governments throughout the world make provisions for protests and petitioning at or near their headquarters, despite public order and security issues. Hong Kong, as a free and open world city, should aspire to the same standards of access.