Square reopens with restrictions Measures enforced to avoid Occupy repeat

CIVIC Square (公民廣場) reopened after a three-year closure, but protests are permitted only on Sundays and public holidays – with the Administration Wing’s (行政署) approval. Overnight camping by protesters is banned.
This came after Chief Executive (行政長官) Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s (林鄭月娥) campaign promise to reopen it after its July 2014 closure following the Occupy movement.
The government said the square will resume its function as a route to pick up and drop off passengers at the Central Government Offices (政府總部) and as a passage for visitors and staff to the offices and the Legislative Council (立法會).
Daily opening hours of the forecourt as a passageway will be from 6am to 11pm, though people with staff or media permits will still have access after closure.
The square, which saw big protests since 2012, will be available for public meetings or processions from New Year’s Eve.
Applications were accepted as early as 28 December, but restrictions await organised protests.
Open hours of the forecourt for holding public meetings and processions will only be from 10am to 6.30pm on Sundays and public holidays.
“Other than these sessions specified for opening to hold public meetings or processions, no activities such as public meetings or submission of petition letters will be allowed to take place in the forecourt,” a government statement said.
The restrictions mean any overnight protests – such as the Central Government Offices occupation against national education in 2012 and protests in 2013 against the decision not to issue a free-to-air television licence to HKTV (香港電視) – are not allowed.
Demosisto (香港眾志) secretary-general Joshua Wong Chi-fung (黃之鋒) slammed the government for imposing “unacceptable restraints” that he said means there will be no protests from Mondays to Saturdays. He added: “Although the government chose to announce changing the arrangements for Civic Square on the day Beijing (北京) approved co-location arrangement as a political hedge, Hongkongers won’t be deceived by this fake opening.”
The first new activity at the square was the New Year’s Day protest by the Civil Human Rights Front (民間人權陣線).
The front received a letter from the Administration Wing after the government announcement, telling it to apply to use the square. Applications will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis.
On 1 January, over 10,000 people took to the streets before arriving at the square to protest a perceived campaign against Hong Kong’s autonomy and other social issues, such as the joint checkpoint for the upcoming West Kowloon station, changes in legislature, and political persecution. Minor scuffles by vocal demonstrators with security and police officers occurred.

(This article is published on Student Standard on 05 January 2018)