Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (December 17):
It has been more than two months since the occurrence of the illegal road occupation movement. It has been reported that in the occupied areas, the occupiers put up a lot of publicity materials, generated large quantities of garbage, drew graffiti everywhere and used without permission large quantities of government properties, including mills barriers, water barriers and traffic cones, etc. Some of them even damaged lamp posts and illuminated bollards, removed paving blocks and planter blocks, dismantled the central dividers on roads and vandalised police cars. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has assessed the public expenditure involved in and the number of working hours spent by civil servants on cleaning up the occupied areas and repairing the facilities concerned since the occurrence of the occupation movement, as well as the manpower and expenditure needed for completely restoring the occupied areas to their original form; if it has assessed, of the details;
(2) whether it has compiled statistics on the quantity of government properties that were used without permission or vandalised, and on the costs of purchase and the reprovisioning costs of such properties; if it has, of the details; whether it will recover such losses from the people or groups concerned; if it will, of the details; if it has not compiled such statistics, the reasons for that; and
(3) of the criminal liabilities to be borne by the people who have used government properties without permission or vandalised them; whether it will commence criminal investigations into the use without permission and vandalism of government properties by the occupiers and make arrests accordingly?
Following the bailiffs' execution of the court injunction orders in end-November and last week and the Police's clearance of road obstructions, the "Occupy Central" (OC) or the "Occupy Movement", lasting for more than two months, came to a close. Our society has paid a heavy price for the whole movement. There are calls in the community for a clear estimation of the loss suffered by Hong Kong and the price that the public have to pay for the entire OC. In this respect, I would like to thank the Hon Chan Hak-kan for his question. Although focusing on the extent of loss of government property and the reinstatement expenditure, the Hon Chan's question has ushered us to a reflection of a deeper level, i.e. apart from tangible and quantifiable loss such as money, manpower and resources, the severity of the OC's impact on Hong Kong in other respects, including the rule of law, economic activities, society in the state of being torn apart and public distress, and furthermore, the means of future restoration. In this connection, I maintain that all involved parties, particularly the OC instigators and propagators, should ponder hard and account for it.
The Hon Chan's question involves policy areas of different bureaux and departments, including the Transport and Housing Bureau, Development Bureau, Food and Health Bureau, Highways Department, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, Civil Engineering and Development Department and Hong Kong Police Force. In consultation with relevant bureaux and departments, the Administration provides a consolidated reply as follows:
During the OC, protesters made road obstructions by misappropriating and taking away a huge quantity of public property, including mills barriers, water barriers, pavement railings, litter bins, recycling bins, traffic cones, road signs and so on, in the illegally occupied areas and their vicinity. Drainage covers at both sides of carriageways and pavement tiles were removed without permission while central dividers on roads were dismantled. Apart from making graffiti on places such as road surface, road dividers and footbridges, some protesters erected wooden staircases or railings on road dividers. They also trod on grass and turned over the soil in roadside planters for planting. Some occupiers even damaged traffic lights and dismantled the covers of illuminated bollards and lamp posts, which was an act of suspected abstracting of electricity, and rendered escalators to malfunction by spreading cement on the steps of the escalators. During the entire OC, 32 police cars were vandalised so far. In addition to government property, the glass doors and walls of the Legislative Council Complex were severely smashed and there were misappropriations of or damages to the property of public and private companies, such as bus/minibus stops and railings of bus/minibus companies, luggage trolleys at the Airport Express, trolleys of supermarkets, and tools and materials at construction sites, including fire extinguishers, precast concrete units, hoardings, aggregates, bricks and bamboo poles.
Given that the occupied road surface and public areas as well as locations at which protest materials were placed or posted fall within the purview of a number of government departments, the Administration has removed the obstructions on the roads and their surrounding areas, washed the streets, and inspected public facilities within the illegally occupied areas, etc, through the concerted efforts of relevant departments. Since the roads in illegally occupied areas that covered a larger space, i.e. those in Admiralty, Central and Causeway Bay were not re-opened until very recently, the Administration is, at this point of time, in no position to assess the additional public expenditure and manpower for clearing up the illegally occupied areas and their vicinity as well as restoring and repairing the public facilities in such areas. Nor has it comprehensively assessed the exact degree of damage in those illegally occupied areas and their vicinity. Nevertheless, I can tell you that about 100 truck trips were consumed just for the delivering of cleared rubbish and miscellaneous items upon the re-opening of roads in Central and Admiralty. As the misappropriated or damaged government property items were under different departments, it will take certain resources, time and concerted effort among departments before such districts can be fully reinstated.
President, the authorities concerned will certainly retrieve the government property misappropriated by the occupiers where necessary and pursue such illegal acts in accordance with the law. Taking government property without permission may constitute theft. Under section 9 of the Theft Ordinance (Cap. 210), any person who commits theft shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for ten years. Moreover, damaging government property involves criminal damage and by the same token, a person shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for 10 years under section 63 of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200).
Furthermore, in accordance with section 4(19) of the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228) on nuisances committed in public places, any person who without lawful authority or excuse in or near any public place defaces any rock or any roadcutting by carving or otherwise marking thereon any letter, character, figure or device shall be liable to a fine of $500 or to imprisonment for three months. In addition, under section 8(b) of the above Ordinance on other offences against good order, any person who without the consent of the owner or occupier writes upon, soils, defaces or marks any building, wall, fence or paling with chalk or paint or in any other way whatsoever; or wilfully breaks, destroys or damages any part of any building, wall, fence or paling, or any fixture or appendage thereof shall be liable to a fine of $500 or to imprisonment for three months.
President, as I have just pointed out, the OC has entailed great loss to Hong Kong, both tangible and intangible, calling for a serious deliberation on whether similar confrontational and illegal acts should be allowed to go on at the expense of Hong Kong's future. As Secretary for Security, I have to reiterate that the Administration has the responsibility to maintain public order and public safety at all times. Any illegal acts shall definitely be pursued according to the law as long as there is sufficient evidence. Just like the public at large, I hope that the OC will not recur, and that all Hong Kong citizens will, in one spirit and by seeking common ground and accommodating differences, join hands to build a better Hong Kong.
Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Issued at HKT 15:21