Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that pro-independence slogans cannot be brought into “Civic Square,” a popular protest site at the government headquarters.
The pro-democracy group Civil Human Rights Front marched to the square on Monday. It was joined by several pro-independence groups. Clashes ensued when some protesters attempted to bring pro-independence flags and banners into the square but were blocked by security guards. Three security guards fell to the ground whilst quarrelling with protesters.
Lam expressed “utmost regret” over the injured guards at a regular press conference on Tuesday.
Lam reopened the square for citizens to express their opinions shortly after she took office last year. The square has been closed since July 2014.
“But there are of course rules after government premises are reopened. You can imagine that inside government premises, people are allowed to enter to protest or express their opinions, but they used the government locations to advocate Hong Kong independence – this is unacceptable to the government,” she said.
“So yesterday colleagues from the Administration Wing and the security guards said that these slogans cannot be brought into the East Wing Forecourt – the reason is obvious.”
Last week, the government banned the Hong Kong National Party, citing the Societies Ordinance on the grounds of “national security, public safety, public order, protection of freedom and the rights of others.” It was the first group to be banned using the law after the 1997 Handover.
Posted by 明報即時新聞 on Monday, 1 October 2018
Jimmy Sham, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, said peaceful marches held by the group are open. He welcomed others to join, although he said the group itself does not support Hong Kong independence.
Sham said the Administration Wing did not give any prior notice that pro-independence activists would be barred from entering the square.
“Even the police, who have been liaising with the Front, did not know the decision by the Administration Wing beforehand,” Sham said.
“It was unusual and unreasonable that the Administration Wing suddenly blocked some marchers from entering Civic Square – it was using power to suppress freedom of speech and assembly, and it was the sole reason for the clash. The Front is disappointed at the incident and expresses sympathy for the injured.”
Sham added that the Front did not clash with the guards, and tried to mediate quarrels.
The Civil Human Rights Front said 1,500 joined the march, whilst the police said there were 1,250 marchers at its peak.
Meanwhile, asked about legislation of the national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Lam said it was a constitutional duty, but the government will only act in a suitable environment.
She said she has heard differing opinions on the national security law from the public, which reflected Hong Kong’s diverse society.