Chief Executive Carrie Lam has suggested reopening Civic Square in front of government headquarters for rallies as soon as the end of this year.

It represents one of the few policies which break away from those of her predecessor Leung Chun-ying.

The square, officially called the East Wing Forecourt of the Central Government Offices (CGO), was blocked off during Leung’s tenure in 2014 following mass protests.

Central Government Headquarters offices admiralty
Civic Square at Central Government Headquarters. Photo: In-Media.

In Lam’s first policy address, she said the square will resume its functions in providing vehicular access to the CGO, a passenger pick‑up/drop‑off point and a passageway for visitors and staff at the CGO and the Legislative Council Complex.

“[W]e will resume the arrangement for members of the public to make applications for holding public meetings or processions at the East Wing Forecourt on Sundays and public holidays,” she wrote.

She said relevant departments are making preparations and details will be announced at a later date.

“I appreciate that we need to keep up our efforts in order to fully realise the design concept of ‘Door always open; Land always green; Sky will be blue; People will be connected’ of the CGO,” she wrote.

carrie lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

However, Alvin Yeung of the Civic Party said Lam failed to mention the removal of fences around the protest flashpoint: “This is not reopening the square at all,” he said.

Central Policy Unit

Lam also suggested revamping the Central Policy Unit, a government think tank, into the “Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Unit.”

During Leung Chun-ying’s tenure, critics said his aides in the unit had more power with regards to appointments than they should, leading to a form of nepotism.

wan chai sports ground
Wan Chai Sports Ground. Photo: Google Street View.

The government will soon begin recruiting 20 to 30 young people to join the proposed unit.

Yeung criticised the recruitment as an “old-fashioned” way to bring young voices into the government.

“What she can do is simply introduce genuine constitutional reform, and I am sure there will be thousands of talents willing to join the government,” he said. “If she had not disqualified Nathan Law, there is a very good talent we have at LegCo.”

Meanwhile, Lam also rejected Leung’s policy to turn the Wan Chai Sports Ground into a new exhibition and convention site.

The Wanchai Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Instead, the government will demolish and redevelop three government buildings next to the existing Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai North, creating a new wing that can be connected to and integrated into the existing centre.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said the policy address lacked new ideas for increasing public confidence in the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

“She did not attempt to resolve the deepest split in society, but only tried to give us minor improvements,” he said. “If she wants to be different to Leung Chun-ying… I don’t see any hope.”

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.