The headquarters of HSBC in Hong Kong is an architectural marvel. Designed by Lord Norman Foster, the 52 floor skyscraper has been likened by many to the a super-sized Meccano set. Every time I show visitors around the city we pause underneath the main lobby as it is located floors above with a glass floor pierced by a three-story escalator. With a full-height atrium a full passageway is available to the public to walk directly underneath the bank. Looking up you can see right through the heart of the bank.
Or at least, you used to be able to.
The design of HSBC hasn’t changed. What’s happened is that access has been restricted. The Occupy Movement set up a campground underneath the lobby of HSBC Bank.
the only solution isWorldRevolution
(Source: Occupy Wall Street)
Since October 2011 a few dozen protesters have established a permanent base below HSBC. To this day are an assortment of tents, bookcases, couches, tables, food preparation areas. What’s not available are proper sanitation facilities, running water, electricity and waste collection.
Occupy Hong Kong started as an eyesore and graduated to a public health hazard.
In the interim HSBC have tried to engage the protesters. They claim the land underneath, while public passageway, needs to be accessible for all the public – as well as ATM customers and staff. The permanent camp interfered with fire drills and a fund-raising event.
For those who have been in Central Hong Kong on a Sunday, there’s another group that traditionally have used the public space under HSBC – Filipinos.
Domestic helpers work six days a week in Hong Kong, and the vast majority have Sunday off work. As most cohabitate with their employers, they spend their free day gathering with friends and relatives. Tens of thousands gather in Central to play, eat, talk and pass time together. On super-hot or rainy days the space underneath HSBC is prized as a meeting spot.
With the Occupy protesters in place, Filipinos have been forced to find alternative space, which is hard to come by in this densely built city.
Last Friday it seems HSBC took off the kid gloves. They applied to the Court of First Instance for a writ to be able to remove the protesters. This provides HSBC the legal option to evict the camp.
Around the world the Occupy Movement has been relocated and threatened with relocation. New York’s famed Zuccotti Park was the first to experience the cleaner’s brush when it was emptied last November. Protesters in London face a similar eviction as they were told to leave this month. The camp in Finsbury Square is still peopled.
“We won’t leave,” said Leing Wing-lai to The Standard in a front page article today.
Whether they go by choice or by force, the people of Hong Kong should have their public passageway back soon. And HSBC will be rid of an eyesore and health hazard.
In the meantime, what has the Occupy Movement achieved?