LCQ3: Impacts of the assemblies triggered by Occupy Central

     Following is a question by the Hon Lam Tai-fai and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (October 29):


     The assemblies triggered by the Occupy Central movement have been going on for more than a month now. Certain major trunk roads have been blocked by assembly participants, causing impacts of varied degrees on Hong Kong's society, economy and people's livelihood, etc. For instance, classes of all kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools and special schools in the Central and Western district and Wan Chai were once suspended; the public transport services passing the assembly venues en route have been seriously affected; quite a number of shop operators in the vicinity of Mong Kok and Causeway Bay have complained about a drastic decline in business; some overseas authorities have reminded their citizens visiting Hong Kong to stay away from the areas affected by the protests, which has not only dampened tourists' desire to visit Hong Kong but also tarnished the international image of Hong Kong; and there have been scuffles between protesters and police officers from time to time causing injuries. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of schools whose classes were once suspended and the number of students involved, with a breakdown of such numbers by school zone and school type (i.e. kindergarten, primary school, secondary school and special school); whether the Education Bureau had approached the principals or the school sponsoring bodies of such schools prior to making the decisions to suspend classes; if it had, of the details and the respective numbers of schools which supported, opposed and had no comment on the arrangements of class suspension and resumption; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) of the number of franchised bus routes and tram routes which have been diverted or suspended so far due to the aforesaid assemblies; whether it has looked into the magnitude of the increase in the highest daily patronages and frequencies of MTR trains since the occurrence of the assemblies as compared with the figures in the past, and whether MTR is able to cope with the additional patronages looked into the matters; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) whether it has assessed the specific impacts of the aforesaid assemblies on the overall economy of Hong Kong, in particular the tourism, catering, retail, transportation and exhibition industries; whether it has so far received any requests for assistance from the affected shop operators and employees in such industries; if it has, of the details and the Government's new measures to provide support to them?



     The assemblies triggered by the Occupy Central movement (the movement) have been going on for more than a month now. Certain major trunk roads have been blocked by assembly participants, causing negative impacts of varied degrees on Hong Kong's society, economy and people's livelihood, etc. Regarding Hon Lam's three-part question on the movement's impact on the school, traffic and economy, our reply is set out as follows:

(1) After the outbreak of the movement on September 28 (Sunday), with students' safety as the top priority, the Education Bureau (EDB) announced that classes of all kindergartens, primary, secondary and special schools in the Wan Chai and Central and Western districts be suspended on September 29 and 30, and October 3 and 4 (with October 1 and 2 being public holidays). A total of 150 schools and some 61 500 students in the two districts were affected. Details are set out in Annex.

     In addition, a primary school in the Yau Tsim Mong district decided to suspend class on its own volition on September 29 having regard to the spontaneous road occupation in the district. About 320 students were affected.

     Regarding the possible impacts of the movement on schools in the Wan Chai and Central and Western districts, the EDB has all along been keeping close contact with the schools and stakeholders to prepare for contingencies. In general, schools in the districts have already put in place contingency measures for class suspension in case of possible emergency. Before the announcement for class resumption was made, the EDB had all along maintained communication with the affected schools, Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations in the districts and relevant departments for the necessary preparatory arrangements for class resumption, including school bus services, provision of lunch boxes and liaison with parents, etc. After a full appraisal of the prevailing situation, the EDB announced class resumption for secondary, primary and special schools, and kindergartens/kindergarten-cum-child care centres in the Wan Chai and Central and Western districts by phases on October 6, 7 and 9 respectively.

(2) Since the beginning of the Occupy Central movement, extensive road transport services in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon have been severely affected by road closure and traffic diversion. Despite some roads having been re-opened, road public transport services are still being affected and this results in unstable operation and frequencies subject to temporary adjustments. Members of the public usually have to set off early and allow additional time for travelling and hence inconvenience is caused.

     Bus services have been severely affected. The highest number of bus routes affected during the past month (i.e. September 30) is 270, accounting for about half of all bus routes in Hong Kong, and these include 77 suspended routes and 193 diverted routes. As at October 28, despite some roads such as Queensway having been re-opened, 225 bus routes are still affected, accounting for about 40 per cent of all bus routes in Hong Kong, and these include 8 suspended routes and 217 diverted routes. Regarding the most affected Hong Kong Island area, as at October 28, about 63 per cent of Hong Kong Island bus routes are still affected. As for the other severely affected area in Mong Kok, 85 bus routes travelling vide Mong Kok are diverted.

     The usage of railway system has indeed increased in the past month. The highest daily patronage of heavy rail during the past month was recorded on October 3 (Friday) with about 5.8 million. This is 13 per cent higher than a normal relatively busy Friday with daily patronage of about 5.1 million. Train compartments are very crowded and passengers usually have to wait for several trains and spend more time for boarding. The average weekday daily patronage of heavy rail from September 28 to October 25 (except Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays) is about 5.34 million, representing an increase by 10 per cent.

     Without compromising railway safety and apart from continuing to run at 2 minutes peak headway from 7.15 am to about 9.15 am (the end time of morning peak hour of individual railway line varies given the difference in patronage), MTR heavy rail network has added about 70 train trips on average per day from September 28 to October 25. Ultimately, the carrying capacity of train system is confined by its signalling system. The risk of service disruption will naturally increase if this situation persists. Having regard to the actual situation, the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) has also implemented further passenger flow management measures at some stations with higher volume of passenger flow in the past month to ensure smooth train operation and passenger safety.

(3) Since the outbreak of the movement, the Government has been closely liaising with the trade to understand the impact of the movement on business operation. We understand from the trade that the sectors directly affected include retail, tourism, catering and transportation, and other sectors may be indirectly affected. The retail sector indicated that during the National Day Golden Week Holidays, the business of the retailers near the protest areas was most adversely affected, and the drop of business of SME retailers in Mong Kok, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui was as high as 80 per cent. As for the tourism sector, the trade representatives indicated that the business of hotels and tourist attractions in individual districts had been affected. They were worried that if the situation continued, it would reduce the desire of visitors to visit Hong Kong, affect the overall development of the tourism industry as well as the livelihood of frontline employees. Affected by the movement, the venue of the annual "Wine and Dine Festival" has to be changed from the New Central Harbourfront to the Former Kai Tak Runway. This would inevitably affect Hong Kong's image as an international tourist city. Regarding the exhibition industry, the operation of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Expo is normal during this period.

     So far, the relevant bureaux/departments have not received requests for assistance from individual shop operators or employees affected by the movement. The Government would continue to provide assistance to SMEs through the existing cross-sector schemes, including the SME Loan Guarantee Scheme and the special concessionary measures under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme. The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development has also appealed to the lending institutions participating in the above schemes to render assistance to the affected SMEs as far as practicable and to expedite the processing of their loan applications.

     The Government will closely monitor the situation and further assess the impact of the Occupy Central movement on various aspects when more data is available. I wish to emphasise that Hong Kong's society, economy and people's livelihood have been affected to different extents. The Government has worked with various sectors to minimise the impact. For the well-being of Hong Kong as a whole, we hope that roads will be reopened as soon as possible to allow people to return to normal life.

Ends/Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Issued at HKT 15:43