An estimated million bricks were torn up from pavements during protests across Hong Kong in the last 12 months, according to government figures which put the total paved area destroyed at 2.2 hectares, costing around HK$8 million to patch up.
The government released new figures on protest street damage in response to a question from New Territories East lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan, who demanded to know the extent of the damage after protestors last year “wantonly vandalised public facilities,” according to Chan.
In response, the government said damage to 740 traffic lights, 1,320 litter bins, 130 recycling bins, 22,000 square metres of pavement and 177 CCTV cameras had cost around HK$66.25 million to repair.
Officials from the Security Bureau, the Food and Health Bureau, the Environmental Protection Department and other departments said the damage to traffic lights, the most expensive damage inflicted, ranged from cutting of cables to blackening of the light lenses. “In some cases, the traffic lights had their components or traffic controllers damaged or even burnt,” said officials. Damage to traffic lights cost around HK$40 million to repair over the last 12 months, although the final bill has not yet been settled, the government said.
Earlier, Transport Department (TD) had said there had been around 1,590 instances of traffic light damage during protests last year, suggesting many lights were hit more than once. At the time, the government said the broken signals directly caused a total of 20 traffic accidents between June and November last year, resulting in a total of 41 injuries.
Officials also confirmed earlier figures of around 60km of railings were removed, either by protestors for use as weapons or barricades, or by authorities to prevent such use. The government said it is working on a new design of railing security bolt, which is harder to remove without the right tools.
But, in a tip of the hat to walkability activists, TD also said the railing removal is an opportunity to assess the number of railings on the streets. “Overuse of railings could cause public inconvenience and have adverse affects on streetscape and footway capacity,” said a spokeswoman.
“TD has been actively taking forward the ‘Walk in HK’ policy to enhance the overall walkability of Hong Kong, which includes reviewing the use and necessity of railings in the city.”
TD said the suggestion to remove more railings has earned mixed opinions from the public – some are supportive of plans to remove street clutter, others are concerned about pedestrian safety, particularly for vulnerable pedestrians, if railings were removed.
The spokeswoman said views have been taken into account and TD has advised Highways Department which railings are no longer necessary, although TD would not provide locations or further details. “The removal works have already commenced, but priority is assigned to reinstating dismantled/damaged railings which were provided for road safety purposes,” the spokeswoman said.