Are protests on the right track? 抗議活動是否納入正軌？
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
(Please scroll down for Chinese translation 繁体中文请往下滑).
If you had been to Hong Kong and used the MTR before the pro-democracy demonstrations began in June you will understand that the SAR’s public rail is quite special. The MTR corporation is 75% government owned, and besides its rail network it also operates shopping malls and associated residential, office and retail space. The MTR is run as a private monopolistic business entity, yet with the government as its major shareholder it is able to manipulate its business and impact both the Hong Kong property market and the wider economy. This in turn has a strong effect on the lives of ordinary Hong Kong citizens and shows that despite claims the SAR operates on the principles of laissez-faire, the facts prove otherwise.
As far back as August of 2019 there was suspicion that the MTR, was somehow colluding with either the police or the government to suppress protests. While station closures and service suspensions were ostensibly meant to protect staff and passengers, it came at great cost for both the MTR company, the general public and the SAR as a whole.
Certain MTR stations have become flashpoints for the social movement, in recognition of events that occurred there. On July 21 At Yuen Long, for instance, a group of men wearing white tee-shirts attacked commuters, bystanders and protesters with bamboo canes, wooden rods and steel bars leaving at least 45 people hospitalised or injured. Another, more serious flashpoint for the movement occurred at Prince Edward Station on 31st August when Police rampaged through the station and into train carriages in the pursuit of protesters making their way home after a demonstration. Since many MTR stations are connected to shopping malls, even they have become the focus of protester and police action. In one nasty incident at a New Territories shopping mall operated by Sun Hung Kai Properties in Sha Tin, Police cornered retreating protesters inside the facility. Shoppers and business people were shocked by the violence that ensued and complaints after the event raised concerns about violations of Police General orders, false imprisonment, and inadequate communication.
Sometimes protesters have stood in carriage doorways to prevent trains doors closing and cause delays. At other times they have taken out their grievances with MTR staff, but as demonstrations have escalated some protesters have more commonly taken to vandalising the MTR signage, the ticketing machines, and turnstyles. The damage week after week has been cumulative, and the MTR has complained about the cost of repairs and the impact on staff morale.
After Oct 1st, when China celebrated its anniversary, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a controversial ban on the wearing of face masks, and this lead to a very strong backlash with demonstrations erupting spontaneously in many parts of the SAR. The result was that the MTR service finally shut down completely over the long holiday weekend. While it was claimed that repairs needed to be carried out at many stations, it made it more difficult for coordinated protest actions to occur, hampered people’s travel plans, and caused many businesses to suffer further financial loss. For many days after that the MTR effectively imposed a further curfew by stealth, closing down every day at 10.00pm instead of the usual midnight closing time.
One of the questions arising from some protest actions is what constitutes public or private space? Can Police enter or search the grounds of a university, for example? Certain open spaces and access ways in Hong Kong are by agreement managed privately, yet owned publicly. Some developers have won concessions from government by including public spaces in their buildings, but independent agencies have found many flaws in this arrangement. Public access can so easily be blocked or restricted. There is little enforcement of the negotiated arrangements, and when the legal grey area is exploited it is the public who are on the losing side.
Monday 7th October was the end of a long holiday weekend marking the local Chung Yeung Festival. There had been a number of protest actions across the SAR, but in Ma On Shan riot Police forced their way into a shopping mall owned and operated privately by the developer 'Henderson Land'. In the days following the incident the security guards at the MOST Mall were arrested for obstruction of the Police. Hong Kongers were left wondering what right the Police have to barge into private property. Police have argued that they did not need a search warrant since they had reason to believe that criminals were inside the premises. Other legal opinion suggests that the Police can only enter a private property to pursue known suspects.
This seems to be a legal grey area, where Police procedures and aspects of law need to work in tandem. What society is witnessing now is rather like the frayed edge of torn fabric. It’s where the pecuniary aims of business, the personal needs of society and the practicalities of government and policing collide. The protesters are right to be unhappy that their tax money is being used against them and there is little or no transparency or accountability. With a huge number of prosecutions to be processed related to the protests, I can foresee a busy time ahead for those in the legal profession.
Jeremiah B. and Pepe
認識到那裡發生的事件，某些地鐵站已成為社交運動的爆發點。例如，在7月21日，在元朗，一群穿著白色T恤的男人用竹棍，木棍和鐵棍襲擊通勤者，旁觀者和抗議者，使至少45人住院或受傷。另一個更嚴重的運動發生在8月31日的愛德華王子車站，當時警察橫衝直撞穿過車站進入火車車廂，以追捕示威者後示威者回家。由於許多地鐵站都與大型購物中心相連，因此即使它們成為抗議者和警察行動 的焦點。在沙田新鴻基地產經營的新界商場發生的一起令人討厭的事件中，警方在設施內對撤退的示威者 進行了圍困。購物者和商人對事件產生的暴力和投訴感到震驚，因為事件引起了人們對違反警察總法令，錯誤監禁和溝通不足的擔憂。
10月1日，當中國慶祝其周年紀念日後，行政長官林鄭月娥（Carrie Lam）宣布禁止佩戴口罩，這引起了強烈反響，在特區的許多地方 自發爆發了示威遊行。結果是，在漫長的假期週末，地鐵服務最終完全關閉。升級後，需要在許多站點進行維修，但是這使得協調抗議行動變得更加困難，阻礙了人們的旅行計劃，並使許多企業蒙受進一步的經濟損失。在此之後的許多天裡，MTR通過隱身有效地實行了進一步的宵禁，每天關閉時間為每天晚上10:00，而不是通常的午夜關閉時間。
Jeremiah B. & Pepe