A popular protest area outside the government headquarters in Admiralty has been closed to the public as construction work is being carried out to improve security at the complex, Apple Daily reported.
Dubbed “Civic Square”, the area in front of the east wing of the Central Government Offices (CGO) has been enclosed in steel fences and will remain closed until the end of August, the government said in a press release on Thursday.
“It is necessary to enhance the overall capacity of the CGO to withstand potential security threats to the building,” a spokesman said. “Besides, the recent public order events that took place at the Legco complex illustrate the need to have appropriate security measures.”
The government stressed that it fully respects the people’s freedom of expression and right to peaceful assembly.
The public may continue to protest in an area designated for public activities along Tim Mei Avenue outside the East Wing Forecourt during the construction period, the spokesman said.
Civil Human Rights Front, one of the organizers of the July 1 pro-democracy march, criticized the move, saying the fences go against the theme of “door always open” for the government complex.
“It shows the government does not want to listen to the public and that may force people to protest in other areas in Central,” Alex Chow Yong-kang, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, was quoted as saying.
Lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan said the “preemptive” move is aimed at preventing damages from radical actions by some groups, adding that the construction work does not hamper the public’s right to hold protests elsewhere, RTHK reported.
Another legislator, James To Kun-sun, said he was not against the move itself, but it remains to be seen whether the government will tighten rules for the public to express their views.
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