The bill for fixing or replacing public facilities damaged by radical protesters over the past five months of unrest in Hong Kong has hit HK$10.5 million (US$1.3 million), the government revealed on Wednesday, while sports and cultural venues were temporarily closed on hundreds of occasions and transport use also affected.
In a written reply to the Legislative Council, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said that from June until the end of October, 460 sets of traffic lights and 40 street lights were vandalised or tampered with, and 45.6km of railings along walkways and about 2,900 square metres of paving blocks on footpaths removed. Protesters often remove railings, secure them with cable ties and use them as roadblocks.
Hong Kong has been rocked by protests, sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, since early June with the level of violence escalating in clashes between anti-government demonstrators and police.
“Rioters vandalised public facilities, including MTR stations, Light Rail stations and traffic lights, in various districts. The illegal blocking of roads in various districts also seriously affected public transport services and government services,” Lee said.
“Rioters even set fires wantonly, damaged shops and hurled petrol bombs, posing serious threats to people’s lives and properties.”
About 670 litter bins from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) were damaged while the Highways Department found more than 900 temporary plastic barriers and 1,500 water-filled barriers were missing.
“During this period, the Highways Department incurred over HK$10 million in maintenance and replacement work. The FEHD incurred about HK$560,000 to reinstall the litter containers,” he said.
Lee said that over the past five months, leisure venues including public swimming pools, sports centres, sports grounds and parks were temporarily closed on more than 1,900 occasions because of nearby processions and protests.
“Cultural venues, including performance venues, museums and libraries were temporarily closed on more than 500 occasions in light of the circumstances and safety concerns,” he said.
For the beleaguered MTR Corporation, a frequent target of protesters who accuse the rail giant of colluding with police and bowing to pressure from Beijing, Lee said petrol bombs were hurled at and fires set to stations and their entrances, causing widespread damage to facilities.
As of October 29, protesters had caused extensive damage at 85 out of 94 heavy rail stations and 60 of 68 Light Rail stops, setting fires, smashing equipment and ripping out fixtures. More than 1,600 turnstiles, 960 ticketing and add-value machines, 1,100 CCTV cameras, 125 lifts and escalators, 1,060 glass panel walls and 130 sets of roller shutters were vandalised.
Lee said the cost of repairs for MTR facilities would be “enormous” with the figures still being estimated.
The rail giant’s services closed early each day for almost the entire month of October and into this month following extensive damage. On October 5, it was forced to shut down the entire network for the first time in its 40-year history.
Use of other modes of transport was also dampened as the daily patronage for franchised buses, green minibuses, and trams dropped 6.6 per cent, 1.5 per cent and 19.3 per cent respectively in August compared with May to 3.9 million, 1.49 million and 127,000.
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