Govt wins appeal over Civic Square restrictions - RTHK
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Govt wins appeal over Civic Square restrictions

2020-02-14 HKT 16:08
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  • The Court of Appeal says restrictions on the use of Civic Square are necessary to ensure the administration's normal operations are not disrupted. File photo: RTHK
    The Court of Appeal says restrictions on the use of Civic Square are necessary to ensure the administration's normal operations are not disrupted. File photo: RTHK
The government has won an appeal against a court ruling that restricting rallies in Civic Square at Tamar to designated hours on Sundays and public holidays is disproportionate.

The forecourt next to the government's headquarters has been a flashpoint for protests for several years, and was the scene of prolonged demonstrations in 2012 over plans to introduce national education in schools.

The area was fenced off in 2014. But at the start of the Occupy protests that year, the square was stormed by protesters led by Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow. The trio were jailed over the break-in, but were later freed by the Court of Final Appeal.

The square was partially reopened in 2017, but public access was still restricted to non-working days and only after permission for a permit was granted.

But following a judicial review brought by a photographer, the High Court ruled in late 2018 that the government's restrictions on the use of the square were disproportionate. It said the move was "tainted with illegality", because it limited the public's right to assembly and free expression, while going beyond what was needed to ensure the smooth operation of government buildings.

On Friday, however, the Court of Appeal overturned this ruling, saying the application system introduced by the government is necessary to ensure the administration's normal operations are not disrupted.

"Having assessed the extent of restriction and balanced the same against the potential risks of disruption to the operation of the CGO [Central Government Offices] during working days, we are of the view that the permission scheme is no more than necessary to achieve the legitimate aims discussed above," a three-judge panel said.