My Take

Hey CY, tear down that fence

Everyone, except the outgoing chief executive, is in agreement that barriers at ‘Civic Square’ outside the government headquarters should be removed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2017, 12:31am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2017, 12:31am

It’s time to pull down the fence and reopen “Civic Square” outside the government’s headquarters in Admiralty.

Everyone agrees on that – whether it’s the government-friendly Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Federation of Trade Unions or localist lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung and the pan-democratic Civil Human Rights Front.

It’s rare to have a political consensus these days. Well, almost a consensus. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is the odd man out. Without directly contradicting incoming leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has promised to consider reopening it, Leung dismissed the idea, citing security concerns.

Protest area known as Civic Square outside Hong Kong government HQ will not reopen, leader CY Leung says

But security for whom? If there is any justification for building a humongous block of government buildings in a prime location, it’s to provide easy access to the public. Well, that’s the on-record rationale. We all know the real reason was, of course, to provide a “commanding height” for glorified civil servants and ministers to look down on the rest of us.

The 1,000-square-metre court, dubbed “Civic Square”, became a focal point for anti-government protesters after the headquarters complex opened in 2011. But protection for the government honchos means inconvenience for the public.

Instead of occupying government space Hong Kong people are justly entitled to have access to, protesters end up taking up the surrounding streets.

But, if people want to protest and rally, why shouldn’t they be able to do it to the extreme inconvenience of over-privileged people on the public payroll, on government ground? Ministers, like it or not, are paid to take the heat.

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Both the mass rally against the mandatory national education curriculum in 2012 and the start of the three-month Occupy protests in 2014 took place at the square. The current three-metre fence was built in 2014.

Considering both pivotal events were the worst political crises Leung had to face as chief executive, perhaps he has developed a psychological attachment to the fence, a kind of post-traumatic response.

But let me play Sigmund Freud here. Face down your fear. Take down the fence, CY. Show the people you are magnanimous. Don’t wait till Lam does it, as surely she will. Do it as one of your last political acts, as a symbol of peace and reconciliation – or just a simple gesture of goodwill.