Deploy auxiliary police around ‘Lennon Walls’ to head off confrontations, says former HK minister Joseph Wong

13-Jul-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Civil Aid Service personnel and auxiliary police should be sent to patrol areas around Hong Kong’s so-called Lennon Walls to head off confrontations, a former minister suggested on Friday.

The impromptu displays covered in Post-it notes and messages have become rallying points for city residents, and where they express their discontent against the government’s reluctance to officially withdraw the now-suspended extradition bill.

Joseph Wong Wing-ping, the former secretary for the civil service, offered the advice after a number of conflicts over the walls broke out this week between police and civilians.

The retired minister also floated some controversial ideas for how to tackle the latest governance crisis, such as introducing electoral reform in the legislature and reducing the quota of “one-way” permits that have increased the number of migrants from mainland China.

Frustrated by what they saw as the government’s failure to respond to demands mainly to withdraw the bill and to investigate the alleged use of excessive force by police protesters have resorted to rallies and posting their messages on “Lennon Walls”, which have become a new flashpoint for confrontations between opponents and government supporters.

The original “Lennon Wall”, dedicated to late Beatle John Lennon, was established in the 1980s in Prague, at the time the capital of Czechoslovakia, and was covered with graffiti and lyrics inspired by the band.

More than 200 police officers on Tuesday night mounted an operation in Tai Po to remove messages posted on the wall of a pedestrian underpass there that exposed personal details of police, while two retired officers were arrested for alleged assault during a fight with demonstrators at another “Lennon Wall” at Yau Tong MTR station the following night.

A third man was arrested and charged for allegedly assaulting two other men guarding the Lennon Wall in Kowloon Tong at 1am on Thursday.

On Thursday evening, there were three reports of assault and arson at the site of the Lennon Wall in Tai Po, Cheung Sha Wan and Aberdeen. Police arrested two men in connection with two of the cases.

The conflicts broke out ahead of rallies to be held in Sheung Shui and Sha Tin this weekend and another large rally the following Sunday organised by the Civil Human Rights Front.

“Most situations near the ‘Lennon Walls’ have been peaceful. Could we not deploy police?” Wong suggested on a Friday morning radio programme, pointing to the Civil Aid Service and the Auxiliary Police Force. “Forces in uniform are needed to keep public order, but I hope clashes can be minimised.”

Carrie Lam has passed up, again and again, chances to reconcile with citizens

Joseph Wong, former Secretary for Civil Service

Wong said emotions of some frontline police staff had neared breaking point, adding that counselling services and appropriate leave should be arranged for officers who need them.

Housing minister Frank Chan Fan was asked after a Housing Authority meeting if Lennon Walls in public housing estates would be considered a disturbance.

“Hong Kong is an open and inclusive society,” he said. “I’d very much hope that, no matter what people are putting up or however they are putting it up … we need to respect each other and let each other voice their opinions in a peaceful and rational manner.”

Chan also urged people not to resort to violence to resolve conflicts.

As of Friday morning, the walls, one of which was a prominent feature of the 2014 Occupy movement, have appeared in over 70 neighbourhoods, with countless notes appealing for the draft legislation to be withdrawn and an independent inquiry into the police’s handling of related protests.

Wong also agreed that these two demands were reasonable and almost constituted a consensus in society.

“Unfortunately, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has passed up, again and again, chances to reconcile with citizens,” Wong said, adding that her claim “the bill is dead” meant nothing in legislative proceedings. “In accordance with the spirit of the rule of law, she should have notified Legco on the withdrawal of the bill.”

Wong also floated a series of controversial ideas for the government to rebuild trust among the public. First, under an electoral reform in the legislature he proposed, five of the 35 functional constituency seats should be replaced by directly elected geographical constituency ones. This would increase the number of directly elected seats to 40.

Beijing’s top man in Hong Kong backs Carrie Lam and slams ‘uncivilised radicals’

Wong also recommended the government review the “one-way” permit scheme, which grants residency to family members of Hongkongers currently living in mainland China. He said the Hong Kong government should take back the right to approve cases and reduce the daily quota to 75.

Created in the 1980s to enable orderly family reunification, the scheme administered by mainland authorities allows up to 150 mainlanders each day to move to Hong Kong. Localists have condemned the scheme as a means for Beijing to “dilute” the population mix of Hong Kong.

On Thursday, a 65-year-old man was assaulted by two men who tore down messages in support of the movement against the extradition bill posted on the Lennon Wall at Nga Wan Road underpass outside Tai Po Market MTR station shortly before 8pm.

A police spokesman said the middle-aged suspects had fled before officers arrived. The victim was treated for arm injuries at Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital.

Police are treating the case as wounding. Officers from Tai Po district crime squad are handling the case.

About an hour later, emergency personnel were called in when Post-it notes on a Lennon Wall caught fire on Wu Nam Street, Aberdeen at 10.42pm. Police said the fire burned out before firefighters arrived. No one was injured.

Police arrested a 46-year-old man in connection with the fire. The Western criminal investigation unit is following up the case.

At 11.46pm, police were called in when another confrontation broke out at the Lennon Wall outside Cheung Sha Wan MTR station in Cheung Sha Wan.

A 50-year-old man tried to remove messages on the wall and got into an argument with a 28-year-old man. During the dispute, he was accused of breaking the younger man’s mobile phone, police said.

Extradition bill crisis: Why are the young people of Hong Kong angry and deeply unhappy?

The spokesman said the older man was then assaulted by third man, described as non-Chinese, who fled before officers arrived.

Police arrested the 50-year-old man for criminal damage. He was treated for minor facial injuries at Caritas Medical Centre.

As of 1pm, police were still searching for the non-Chinese man in connection with the assault.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post