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Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam in the Legislative Council today (July 10):
It has been reported that some scholars have initiated the Occupy Central movement, one of the actions of which is to call for more than 10 000 people to block the roads in Central next year (the road occupation action), with the intent to force the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the Central Government to accept the proposal for universal suffrage recognised by these people. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the respective numbers of people currently working, studying and residing in Central, as well as the current daily vehicular traffic volume in Central;
(b) whether the authorities have assessed the impact the road occupation action will bring about to people working, studying or residing in Central and other road users, and whether they have formulated contingency measures in this regard; if an assessment has been conducted and contingency measures formulated, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(c) of the respective numbers of banks, other financial institutions and registered companies which have set up offices in Central at present;
(d) whether it has assessed the impact the road occupation action will bring about to the banks and the financial industry in Hong Kong, and whether it has formulated contingency measures in this regard; if an assessment has been conducted and contingency measures formulated, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(e) whether it has assessed, when 10 000 people participate in the road occupation action, the rescue services that need to be deployed; and whether it has assessed the impact of the deployment of police manpower and rescue services in this regard on the police manpower and rescue services in other districts; whether the Police will draw up different corresponding plans to deal with the road occupation action (e.g. how to disperse people who illegally block the roads)?
Hong Kong residents enjoy the rights of assembly, procession and demonstration according to the Basic Law and other relevant laws. The Police always handle public meetings, demonstrations and processions in a fair, just and impartial manner in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong. The enforcement policy of the Police is to endeavour to strike a balance by facilitating all lawful and peaceful public meetings, demonstrations and processions on the one hand, and on the other hand, reducing the impact of such activities on other members of the public or road users, and ensuring public order and public safety.
The Administration is very concerned about “Occupy Central” initiated by some members of the community. According to reports, some members of the community hope to rally over 10 000 people to occupy trunk roads in Central as a means to express their aspirations. We understand that there are concerns from quite a number of organisations and individuals over the impact of “Occupy Central” on the community, including disruption of social order, damage to the local economy and the business environment, undermining of Hong Kong’s competitiveness and, consequently, withdrawal of business by multinational corporations.
We have to reiterate that when expressing their aspirations, participants of public meetings, demonstrations or processions should, under the premise of observing the laws of Hong Kong, conduct such activities in a peaceful and orderly manner. Participants should not engage in any behaviour to the detriment of public order or any act of violence. If there is any occupancy of trunk roads in Central, collective paralysis of traffic, blocking up of public thoroughfares, etc. by over 10 000 people, it will cause grave impact on social order and public safety and even affect the emergency services rendered to the public, thereby threatening lives and property of the public.
In consultation with the relevant bureaux, the consolidated reply to the Member’s question is as follows:
(a) According to the latest statistics of the Census & Statistics Department, the numbers of persons working and residing in the Central & Western district (including Central and the nearby Admiralty and Sheung Wan) are 345 300 and 250 800 respectively. Some 54 000 students undertake full-time studies at one university, 17 secondary schools, 28 primary schools and 40 kindergartens / kindergarten cum child care centres in the district. According to the Annual Traffic Census carried out by the Transport Department (TD), the average daily traffic entering and exiting the Central district is about 535 000 vehicles per day.
(b) In view of the hectic road traffic on the Hong Kong Island, particularly in the vicinity of Central, any unforeseen incidents that occur on the roads in that area may critically impede the traffic nearby and affect the major trunk roads and other accesses connecting to the district. Currently, the eastbound and westbound of Connaught Road Central and Harcourt Road (the Corridor) are the major roads in the central business district. Based on past experience, minor accidents or incidents occurring on the Corridor or in its vicinity often result in congestion on the road network. Any traffic blockages around Central will quickly give rise to severe impact on other districts and major routes. In addition to Central, Sheung Wan, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and the Happy Valley would experience acute congestion, while other major trunk roads including Connaught Road, Gloucester Road, the Island Eastern Corridor, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel at Hung Hom and the Western Harbour Crossing would be gravely affected, and the effect may even reach as far as Kowloon. Therefore, blocking up of trunk roads in Central will cause disruption to the life and work of tens of thousands of citizens. Such an action would also cause obstruction to the emergency rescue services provided by four hospitals and six fire stations / ambulance depots in the Central & Western district.
As for foreseeable incidents including public order events, the Police will assess their impact and discuss with relevant stakeholders in a bid to formulate corresponding contingency measures, including road closure, traffic diversion and crowd control, such that the impact on all road users can be minimised. The Emergency Transport Co-ordination Centre under TD is responsible for monitoring the traffic and public transport situations 24-hour daily and handling related incidents.
(c) According to the information provided by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB), the regulators have roughly estimated that more than 1 000 banks and other regulated financial institutions have an office in Central. As for registered companies, the Administration does not have the breakdown by district.
(d) Based on information provided by FSTB, the Administration, financial regulators, trading and clearing systems, and financial institutions have put in place contingency plans, with a view to coping with various situations which may affect the normal operation of business. This is to ensure that when an emergency arises, the relevant organisations will be able to adopt appropriate contingency measures, so as to minimise any impact on the operation of their core businesses.
Notwithstanding the above, Central is the core business district of Hong Kong, and most of the major financial institutions, infrastructure and regulators operate in Central. If there is a large-scale road occupation action in the district, financial and other related activities may inevitably be affected. It will also cause inconvenience to members of the public who use the relevant services.
(e) The extent of resources to be deployed by the Police in handling individual public order events depends upon the nature of the events, the number of participants, locations and actual circumstances on the spot. Based on past experience, the Police would require substantial manpower and resources when handling large-scale public order events including public processions and demonstrations, so as to ensure public order and public safety. On another front, the Fire Services Department would formulate contingency action plans based on the information about the relevant public order events. Where necessary, additional fire engines and ambulances would be deployed to the nearby area for providing support.
The Police appeal to any person, who plans to organise public order events with the number of participants exceeding the limit prescribed in the law (i.e. public meetings of more than 50 persons and public processions of more than 30 persons), for approaching the Police as early as possible for the discussion of the specific arrangements so that corresponding measures can be formulated and adopted, whereby facilitating the concerned activities to be conducted in a peaceful manner, minimising the impact on other members of the community and ensuring public order and public safety.