Government wins Civic Square restrictions appeal
Friday, February 14, 2020
The government has won an appeal against a court ruling that the restrictions it imposed on people rallying in Civic Square at Tamar were disproportionate.
The forecourt next to the government's headquarters was fenced off in 2014, after the area became a flashpoint for protests, including over plans in 2012 to introduce national education in schools.
At the start of the 2014 Occupy protests, 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 restricted, with rallies limited to Sundays and public holidays, 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.
Today, 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.