Is the reopening of Hong Kong’s ‘Civic Square’ just a ‘political show’? Joshua Wong’s camp thinks so

Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung on Tuesday called for a “genuine reopening” of the forecourt outside the government headquarters in Admiralty ahead of an expected announcement by authorities to restore access to the area.

Wong said on a radio programme that it would be meaningless and “fake” to reopen the place – widely known as “Civic Square” and once a popular site for protests – if only civil servants with permits could enter the area.

“Civic Square symbolises the basic right of citizens to demonstrate in front of the government headquarters,” Wong said. “The final goal [of reopening the square] must be to restore it back to its former condition, where citizens are free to gather and demonstrate.”

‘Civic Square’ to reopen for first time since 2014 protests led by jailed Hong Kong activists

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledged during her election campaign to consider reopening the 1,000 square-metre area. It was cordoned off by her predecessor Leung Chun-ying in July 2014 after several major sit-ins, including a 10-day demonstration against a proposed national education curriculum.

The forecourt was also stormed by protesters in 2014, led by Wong, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang, sparking a clash with police that became a prelude to the Occupy movement.

The three student activists were jailed for six to eight months and are currently on bail pending their appeal.

On Sunday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government would announce details of the reopening within days.

“We would resume the conditions in 2014,” he said, adding that thousands of civil servants working there would be allowed to access the area from 6am to 11pm.

People with permits, including lawmakers and press members, might also be able to enter the area after 11pm, he said.

But Cheung did not clarify if the place would be opened to the public and for people to stage protests.

Speaking to reporters after appearing on the radio programme with Wong, Agnes Chow-ting, also from the Demosisto party, said she did not feel the reopening of Civic Square was an extension of an olive branch by the government.

“It is not a real or a true reopening. It’s just a political show,” she said.