The government’s Administration Wing does not have a responsibility to ensure crowds overflowing from the designated protest site on Tim Mei Avenue are accommodated, a government official told Eastern Court on
David Chiu Yin-wah of the wing’s departmental administration unit, was responding to questions over the use of the Central Government Offices’ east wing forecourt, also known as Civic Square.
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This came as he testified against Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Federation of Students’ secretary general Nathan Law Kwun-chung and his predecessor, Alex Chow Yong-kang.
It is alleged that Wong, 19, took part and incited others to take part in an illegal assembly at the forecourt on September 26, 2014. Law, 22, was also said to have incited others while Chow, 25, allegedly took part in the assembly on September 26 and 27, according to prosecutors.
All three deny the charges.
Chiu testified that the forecourt was planned for “government, institution or community” use, meaning it was not a public open space.
He agreed to a suggestion by Wong’s counsel, Randy Shek, that the wing had discretionary powers to allow public assemblies in the forecourt if interested users took administrative steps to file an application.
But he disagreed that the wing, being responsible for its management, would open the space if there were too many people at the designated protest site on Tim Mei Avenue.
“If there’s not enough space to fit all people at the designated protest area, that’s not our problem. It’s for the police,” the principal executive officer testified.
“This is not our responsibility so we do not have the responsibility to consider this.”
Magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan was previously told that the forecourt was opened daily from 7am to 11pm for public access but was closed all day on September 26 for security reasons, allowing entry only for government and Legislative Council staff and reporters.
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Those who wished to use the forecourt on Sundays and public holidays would need prior approval, no matter how many people were involved. But approval could be withdrawn at any time without explanation, Chiu added as he rejected suggestions that his unit was stricter than police in handling applications.
Shek said there had been peaceful assemblies on the forecourt in the past including Scholarism’s protests against national education in 2012.
Chiu agreed that the wing, as a government department, had a responsibility to facilitate peaceful protesters in expressing their demands.
But Shek asked which government official would be present when protesters used the forecourt on holidays.
“The same could be said for Sunday protests,” Chiu replied, adding that government representatives were arranged to receive petition letters whenever there were protests at the Tim Mei Avenue site.
The trial continues.