Govt to ramp up security at Legco as session resumes next week

October 09, 2019 14:27
Walls and pillars at the Legislative Council building have been rid of graffiti following repair work that cost about HK$40 million. Photo: Now News video screenshot

Tight security will be enforced when the Legislative Council resumes session on Oct. 16, as well as on the next day, according to Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen.

Leung said the Legco Commission, which he chairs, made the decision to ensure that all the legislators' meetings are conducted smoothly, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Everyone entering the building, including legislators and staff, will be screened as part of the security measures, he said.

Leung also expressed gratitude to the Architectural Services Department (ASD), the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD), the Legco Secretariat, and contractors for their efforts at repairing the Legco complex.

On the night of July 1, hundreds of protesters, part of a larger crowd that had earlier staged a peaceful protest against the now-withdrawn extradition bill, stormed the Legco complex and trashed the place, destroying equipment and spraying graffiti on walls and furniture.

The incident forced the legislative body to suspend operations as the damaged facilities and meeting rooms required repairs.

Following the restoration efforts, most meeting facilities are now ready for use, damaged equipment replaced, the Hong Kong emblem fixed, and graffiti on the walls removed.

Some of the windows and entrances to the building are still blocked with wooden boards and the Civic Square, an open space in front of the East Wing of the Central Government Complex, which is a favorite venue for protests, remains surrounded by water barriers, RTHK reported.

Leung said the repairs on the Legco building and facilities cost around HK$40 million, an expense shared by the ASD, EMSD and the Legco. Discussions with insurance companies for compensation are still underway, he added.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is expected to deliver her third policy address next Wednesday, the first Legco meeting for the 2019-2020 session.

On the same day, lawmakers will tackle the Security Bureau’s motion of withdrawing the extradition bill, according to the agenda of the council meeting next Wednesday.

Talking to reporters before the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lam said she hoped she could deliver her policy address in person, although everything will depend on the security situation.

The chief executive also revealed that her speech “will not be the usual type of policy address that will be very elaborate, very comprehensive, covering almost every aspect of the government”.

“I am getting it ready for announcement on October 16. Whether I could do it in a normal fashion, that is, walking into the Legislative Council chamber to read it out, maybe for an hour, an hour or so, is not something that I could determine on my own, because it depends on the reception in Legco, especially among some non-pro-establishment members, and also what will happen outside of the Legco building,” she said.

“We have to monitor the situation and to plan for some alternatives to get that policy address out in the public domain,” Lam added.

Meanwhile, a government spokesman said there will be no TV forum in the evening and no radio forum the next morning after the policy address, citing uncertainties that may exist in the vicinity of the government headquarters in Admiralty.

Asked if Legco has any contingency measures or backup plans should the complex be besieged again by protesters on Wednesday, Leung said there is no any backup plan, adding that no meetings will be held if lawmakers are unable to enter or leave the premises freely.

Lam said the regulation, which came into effect last Saturday, is subsidiary legislation subject to "negative vetting" by Legco.

There is a view that "negative vetting" is tantamount to bypassing Legco to make a law.

But Leung pointed out that the mask ban will be dealt with in accordance with established mechanisms, adding that dozens of legislation, even a hundred, have been introduced in that manner every year.

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