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Li Xueying
Sunday, Jun 22, 2014

Asia

HK girds itself for downtown blockade

The Straits Times | Li Xueying | Sunday, Jun 22, 2014

Demonstrators who support the Occupy Central movement holding up placards asking residents to vote in a referendum on three constitutional reform proposals - all of which incorporate public nominations.

HONGKONG - Additional phone lines have been registered so that calls can be re-routed.

Extra laptops have been bought and even cup noodles are being stocked up in case employees get stuck in their offices.

The Asia Financial insurance company near the Central MTR station has taken such precautionary steps in case Hong Kong's financial district shuts down during a proposed Occupy Central movement to lobby for universal suffrage, or the right to vote.

Meanwhile, Standard Chartered bank has hammered out a contingency plan to have some of its employees at its Central offices relocated to its back office in Kwun Tong at Kowloon.

Less time-critical functions will be taken over by colleagues in Singapore, one of its employees who declined to be named told The Straits Times. In response to queries, the bank only said it has a "comprehensive business continuity plan" in place.

Companies and banks are making such plans, in anticipation of the civil disobedience movement which aims to rally up to 10,000 people.

While its organisers have not confirmed when the blockade will take place, Hong Kong will hold its annual protest march on July 1. There are concerns that some protesters could begin a sit-in then, says Mr Bernard Chan, president of Asia Financial, and an executive councillor in the Hong Kong government.

Last Saturday, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) held an emergency drill with 55 banks. "The drill assumed that due to unexpected events, the headquarters or other important operating sites of banks in Central as well as the HKMA's office became inaccessible," it said in a statement.

"Hence, banks and the HKMA need to simulate the activation of their business continuity plans and operate in their respective backup offices."

Hongkong Land, the biggest property management player in Central with properties such as Exchange Square, says it has "worked very hard on preparation for possible impact to our internal building operations".

It is unclear to what extent the civil disobedience movement will mobilise its targeted numbers and derail activities in Hong Kong's financial district.

The city has a long tradition of marches and protests that have proceeded smoothly with little incident. The Occupy Central organisers have also said that the sit-in will be conducted peacefully.

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