Security clampdown before Lam dialogue

Top News | Angel Kwan and Jane Cheung 20 Sep 2019

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is gearing up for her first community dialogue as she tries to stop the unrest - but people online are already planning to surround Queen Elizabeth Stadium where it will be held on Thursday.

Police were seen inspecting the venue in Wan Chai yesterday.

The government announced details for the public dialogue, where items such as protective gear, helmets, banners and plastic bottles will be banned and those taking part face security checks.

No foul language is allowed.

Only 150 citizens will be admitted through online registration for the "open dialogue platform," set for Thursday from 7pm to 9pm at the 3,500-capacity stadium.

Lam and principal officials will lead the session that is "aimed at reaching out to the public to invite people from all walks of life to express their views to the government, so as to fathom the discontent in society and to look for solutions," the government said yesterday.

Those interested should submit registration forms online or at Home Affairs enquiry centers before noon on Monday.

Successful applicants will be notified on or before Tuesday.

Only those registered after the drawing of lots can take part.

Their Hong Kong IDs will be checked before admission.

Latecomers and those looking to be readmitted will not be allowed in.

About 10 plainclothes police officers were seen inspecting the stadium yesterday for about an hour. They took photos of exits and entrances.

Lam's move sparked heated discussions online, as some people said they would rather go shopping around the stadium than enroll for the meeting.

"We don't have to besiege the police station anymore. New target haha," one wrote.

"Imagine they're pretending to have a dialogue inside and there are countless tear gas deployed outside of it. Will it become a very staggering scene?" another wrote.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan said she does not have high expectations.

"How can this be considered a sincere dialogue if they set up so many restrictions before that?" she said.

Starry Lee Wai-king, chaiwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said she understands how security can be a concern.

"Except for the dialogues in the community, I would suggest the chief executive and her team consider starting online dialogues," she said. "It would reduce stress on security."

The online application form has a two-page-long "venue charter" attachment.

The organizer pledges in the charter that all taking part, regardless of political stance or background, can express their personal views, and the government representatives will listen to the views of the public "in a sincere, open and inclusive manner."

People are banned from bringing any materials that could disrupt the event, including oversized items, loud hailers or sound amplifiers, umbrellas, "defensive equipment" such as mask respirators and helmets, flags, banners, bunting, plastic, glass or metal containers, and bottled or canned drinks.

They will undergo security checks before entering the venue.

They will be required to deposit forbidden items at designated places and collect them after the dialogue.

Obstruction of any entrance and exit, staircase and passage is not allowed.

"Participants will not disrupt the dialogue, cause nuisance, inconvenience or danger to other parties or use foul language," the charter said.

Leisure facilities at the stadium, including badminton courts, squash courts and the table-tennis area, will be unavailable for booking for that day.

The booking system shows there are three squash courts, four table tennis tables and three multipurpose rooms for badminton at the stadium.

However, apart from one multipurpose room that was booked from 12 to 1pm and 6 to 11pm on Thursday, all other facilities were shown to be under maintenance on that day.

But some of these facilities marked as being under maintenance could be booked for some time slots on Wednesday and next Friday.

More reports: Pages 10 & 14

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