Hong Kong protests: security chief John Lee lays blame for water-barrier obstruction across city on ‘rioters’

Natalie Wong

Hong Kong’s security chief has hit back at opposition lawmakers challenging him over huge water barriers they say are obstructing disabled people on city streets, as he blamed “rioters and their violent acts” for disrupting everyone during the anti-government protests.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu and legislators locked horns in the Legislative Council on Wednesday over the measures, which were installed around police stations and government buildings following the escalation of the unrest that started last summer.

The debate was triggered by Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung when he referred to complaints from wheelchair users, who he said had reported that a large number of the water-filled barriers erected on pavements outside official buildings were getting in their way.

Displaying a photograph of water barriers blocking nearly half the passageway leading to a lift on a footbridge connecting to the government headquarters, he said: “How can wheelchairs pass such a narrow path?”

Cheung said visually impaired people also complained that tactile guide paths linking to those premises were blocked by the barriers.

The perimeter fencing has remained in place even as the protests sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill last June have been reduced in scale over recent months.

In response, Lee said it was “the violent acts of rioters” that prompted the government to install the additional security.

Public should not be misled by bias against police report, security chief says

“[Such barriers] won’t be needed if citizens participate in public events in a lawful and peaceful manner,” he said.

“If lawmakers care about access for people with disabilities, they should loudly condemn rioters’ violent acts that destroy the facilities … They should not acquiesce [to] or glamorise their violence.”

Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung says the barriers have stopped wheelchair users. Photo: RTHK

Pro-Beijing legislator Michael Luk Chung-hung of the Federation of Trade Unions also weighed in to blame radical protesters for damaging the sound function of traffic lights, which serve as an aid for those with sight issues.

Cheung insisted that the government was to blame for triggering the social unrest, as officials ignored public demands, such as the relaunch of democratic reforms.

He urged the government to remove the barriers as soon as possible to make it easier for the disabled to travel around the city.

Social welfare sector representative Shiu Ka-chun, also an opposition lawmaker, asked whether police had formulated guidelines on ways to avoid inconveniencing the disabled when installing such security measures.

Lee replied that if access to public premises was blocked by the government’s barriers, complainants should contact those directly responsible for maintaining accessibility in that area.

The minister added that officials had explained their policies to representatives from NGOs that help people with disabilities.

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