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LCQ4: Government respects the rights of the public to peaceful assemblies and processions

     Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai in the Legislative Council today (January 12):


     It has been reported that the Government, without consulting the public, constructed a planter at the through zone outside the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the Liaison Office) in May 2002, thereby reducing the width of the original through zone from nine metres to three metres.  This narrowed through zone does not meet the minimum width standard of 4.5 metres for through zones of land uses of "government, institution or community facilities", recommended by the authorities in the Transport Planning and Design Manual updated in 2008.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Government will plan to alter and reduce or remove the planter at the through zone on Connaught Road West outside the Liaison Office so as to provide for a demonstration and press area outside the Liaison Office to facilitate the expression of opinions by members of the public; if it will, of the related arrangements; if not, how the Government will improve the space of the through zone outside the Liaison Office to enable members of the public to express their opinions orderly and safely;

(b) of the number of petitions or demonstrations staged outside the Liaison Office in the past three years, the respective numbers of participants as estimated by the Police and the police officers deployed in each of these petitions or demonstrations, the largest and smallest numbers of participants among these petitions/demonstrations, as well as the largest number of police officers deployed among these petitions/demonstrations (set out the aforesaid figures in table format); the number of times that the Police had prosecuted those who had staged petitions or demonstrations outside the Liaison Office in the past three years; whether the Police have assessed if excessive police manpower will trigger negative emotions among the protesters; and

(c) whether the Government will alter the through zone outside the Liaison Office so that the width of the zone can meet the planning standard as recommended by the authorities?



     The question raised by the Hon Member covers two policy areas: namely, the planning standards and beautification facilities of a section of a footway in the Western District, and the figures of handling public assemblies and processions by the Police in that area.

     Regarding the planning standards and facilities of footway, information provided by the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) shows that, in order to improve the traffic condition of the district, the Government proposed to carry out traffic improvement works on Connaught Road West in 2002.  The proposed works included relocating the exit of a layby previously located at the section of Connaught Road West between Western Street and Water Street to a position that would provide a better driving sightline by moving the layby away from the stairs of the Western Street footbridge. The proposed works would improve the undesirable situation that vehicles weave in and out Connaught Road West in poor driving sightline at that location.  As for the construction of the planter at the relevant section of Connaught Road West, it was part of the works project for appropriate streetscape improvement and beautification of the road section concerned.  As pointed out by the Hon Member in his question, the width of the footway is three metres after the road improvement works, which is in line with the section of Connaught Road West connecting to it.  In other words, the width of both road sections maintains at three metres.

     THB also confirms that the section of footway is in compliance with the design and planning standards.  Information of the Transport Department shows that the actual pedestrian flow of that footway during the busiest hours in the morning is eight persons per minute on average.  According to the Transport Planning and Design Manual, if the pedestrian flow at a footway is less than 60 persons per minute, the minimum width of the footway should be two metres.  As such, with a width of three metres at present, the section of the footway conforms to the transport planning and design standards.  The Administration currently does not see any need to make further and particular alteration to that section of footway.

     President, I would now turn to the Hon Member's question on information about the public assemblies and processions held at the relevant road section.  In response, I must first of all emphasise that the HKSAR Government respects the rights of the public to peaceful assemblies and processions and expressions of views.  As Hong Kong is a crowded place, large-scale public assemblies and processions will affect other members of the public or road users, and may have impacts on public safety and order.  In this connection, while facilitating the expression of views by participants of processions, the Police are also responsible for maintaining public order.  In striking the balance, the Police should also take heed of the rights and safety of other members of the public in using public places or roads.  Participants of public assemblies or processions, in expressing their views to the community, should also observe the laws of Hong Kong and social order, and proceed in a peaceful and safe manner.

     The Police maintain only the overall figures of public assemblies and processions.  There is no information of any breakdown analysis of public assemblies and processions held in various districts, locations of individual institutions or their nearby areas.  Therefore, neither is there breakdown of figures of participants and police officers on duty for each public event that took place at that road section.

     Nevertheless, in handling public events, the Police will maintain close contact with the organisers, having regard to the information and the expected number of participants provided by the latter.  The Police will, by taking into account possible public responses, strategies and experience in handling similar events in the past, details of the events and possible constraints on their operations, make comprehensive risk assessment and examination.  During the whole process, the Police will maintain communication with the organisers to decide on the necessary manpower deployment and implement appropriate crowd management measures, with a view to ensuring that each public event can be conducted in a safe and orderly manner.

Ends/Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:01


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