Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that pro-independence slogans cannot be brought into “Civic Square,” a popular protest site at the government headquarters.

The pro-democracy group Civil Human Rights Front marched to the square on Monday. It was joined by several pro-independence groups. Clashes ensued when some protesters attempted to bring pro-independence flags and banners into the square but were blocked by security guards. Three security guards fell to the ground whilst quarrelling with protesters.

Lam expressed “utmost regret” over the injured guards at a regular press conference on Tuesday.

October 1 march pro-independence slogan Civic Square
A pro-independence slogan reading “Hong Kong will become the mainland if it does not go independent” inside the Civic Square on October 1, 2018. Photo: SocRec.

Lam reopened the square for citizens to express their opinions shortly after she took office last year. The square has been closed since July 2014.

“But there are of course rules after government premises are reopened. You can imagine that inside government premises, people are allowed to enter to protest or express their opinions, but they used the government locations to advocate Hong Kong independence – this is unacceptable to the government,” she said.

“So yesterday colleagues from the Administration Wing and the security guards said that these slogans cannot be brought into the East Wing Forecourt – the reason is obvious.”

Last week, the government banned the Hong Kong National Party, citing the Societies Ordinance on the grounds of “national security, public safety, public order, protection of freedom and the rights of others.” It was the first group to be banned using the law after the 1997 Handover.

【十一遊行】遊行者舉港獨標語入公民廣場受阻 推撞期間有保安倒地

今日民陣發起大遊行,下午遊行至俗稱「公民廣場」的政府總部東翼前地集會。有人手持「香港唔獨,實變大陸」標語,擬進場時被行政署人員拒絕。遊行人士不滿,與警方發生衝突,推撞期間有保安倒地,最後由救護車送走。(何駿軒、林頌華攝)報道:【有人舉港獨標語入公民廣場受阻 「港獨」團體警總外停下集會】

Posted by 明報即時新聞 on Monday, 1 October 2018

Jimmy Sham, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, said peaceful marches held by the group are open. He welcomed others to join, although he said the group itself does not support Hong Kong independence.

Sham said the Administration Wing did not give any prior notice that pro-independence activists would be barred from entering the square.

“Even the police, who have been liaising with the Front, did not know the decision by the Administration Wing beforehand,” Sham said.

Hong Kong independence flags October 1 march
Hong Kong independence flags at the march on October 1, 2018. Photo: Hong Kong National Front.

“It was unusual and unreasonable that the Administration Wing suddenly blocked some marchers from entering Civic Square – it was using power to suppress freedom of speech and assembly, and it was the sole reason for the clash. The Front is disappointed at the incident and expresses sympathy for the injured.”

Sham added that the Front did not clash with the guards, and tried to mediate quarrels.

The Civil Human Rights Front said 1,500 joined the march, whilst the police said there were 1,250 marchers at its peak.

Security guards Civic Square hospitalised
Security guards at the Civic Square being hospitalised on October 1, 2018. Photo: SocRec.

Meanwhile, asked about legislation of the national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Lam said it was a constitutional duty, but the government will only act in a suitable environment.

She said she has heard differing opinions on the national security law from the public, which reflected Hong Kong’s diverse society.

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.