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Walls of steel

11 December 2005

By night, the Hong Kong Exhibition and Conference centre is eerily quiet. The only sign of life are the expertly tailored heavies patrolling the perimeter. Staggeringly, the authorities have allowed Sunday's rally to march practically to the centre itself - far closer than the masses were permitted during the WTO's Seattle and Cancun ministerials (both of which ended in deadlock and, campaigners would say, a reprieve for the world's poor, thanks largely to mass mobilisations girding the loins of developing bloc negotiators inside).

After some prodding, HK police has admitted:

"The Correctional Services Department has made arrangements for the provision of penal places for detaining demonstrators after court appearance during MC6 [the WTO's sixth Ministerial Conference]. The Victoria Prison, which has a capacity of about 400 places for detaining demonstrators after court appearance, will be vacated."

It neglects to mention that the Victoria Prison was built by the British 141 years ago and named after a monarch who was crowned Empress of India and presided over the massive expansion of the East India Company, globalisation’s first big beast. How apt.

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