The Hong Kong government has spent HK$66.25 million on repairing public facilities vandalised during large-scale protests since last June.

According to a written reply from Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan to questions raised by pro-Beijing lawmaker Gary Chan on Wednesday, a total of 740 sets of traffic lights were damaged between June 2019 and May this year.

Frank Chan. File Photo: inmediahk.net, via CC 2.0.

The city has been gripped by a year of protests which erupted last June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. They have escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment.

During demonstrations, traffic lights were damaged to different extents – some cables were cut while some lights were “blackened,” as some protesters spray-painted them. Some components of the traffic lights were burnt as well, often done in an effect to enforce strike action, damage the transport system or drain government funds.

The Transport and Housing Bureau head said protective frames had been added to traffic controllers at major road junctions to prevent future vandalism. Pedestrian traffic lights at intersections are also covered with protective meshes. The cost of fixing damaged traffic lights amounted to HK$40 million, Chan said.

Protester remove railings to block roads. Photo: May James/HKFP.

During the same time period, around 22,000 square metres of footpath paving blocks and 60 km of railings were removed. Chan said the Highways Department has temporarily substituted the torn down railings with plastic chains, and is gradually reinstalling railings with “enhanced design” for better reinforcement. The railing repair works which are still in progress, are estimated to cost at least HK$15 million.

“The HyD has rectified the [damage] and the department has been exploring various options for enhancing the design for footpath paving,” Chan’s reply read, adding that the expenditure for pavement restoration amounted to HK$8 million.

Some pavement potholes in protest hotspots such as Mong Kok – where bricks were dug up and used by protesters as projectiles or to set up roadblocks – have been filled with concrete.

Protester dug up bricks to block roads. Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Other public facilities that the government had to restore included at least 177 CCTV cameras and around 1,320 rubbish bins and 130 recycling bins, costing HK$1.57 million and HK$1.68 million respectively.

A protester obscures a surveillance camera at the legislature last year. Photo: Isaac Yee/HKFP.

Chan said relevant departments conduct site inspections frequently to ensure the cameras are functioning properly, while the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has gradually replaced bins with litter bags.

The government has also erected metal fences on public footbridges – including that one above the Cross Harbour Tunnel Toll Plaza in Hung Hom – to prevent objects from being thrown onto the roads.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.