Hong Kong legislature suspended amid chaos over protests

Robie de Guzman   •   October 17, 2019   •   138

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam addresses a press conference after presenting her 2019 policy address in Hong Kong, China, 16 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MIGUEL CANDELA

Pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong heckled the city’s embattled leader and called for her to step down on Thursday (October 17) during a legislative session that was repeatedly suspended as several politicians were manhandled out of the chamber.

It was the second day of chaos in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council as leader Carrie Lam tried to answer questions about her annual policy address, which she was forced to deliver by video link on Wednesday (October 16) after similar disruptions in the assembly.

Lam, who is backed by China’s government, announced measures on Wednesday to tackle the city’s chronic housing shortage in her address after she was jeered in the chamber. Again, on Thursday, pro-democracy lawmakers shouted for Lam to resign, saying she had blood on her hands.

They also called on her to address protesters’ key demands – something her policy address largely ignored.

About a dozen members of the assembly were ejected, shouting and waving placards as security guards marched them out. (Reuters)

(Production: Xihao Jiang, Juarawee Kittisilpa)

China condemns approval of US bill on Hong Kong human rights

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

China on Wednesday condemned the approval by the United States Senate of a Hong Kong human rights and democracy bill, which could serve to punish officials that undermine the rights of the inhabitants of the special administrative region.

The Senate unanimously approved the Hong Kong human rights and democracy bill on Tuesday, which could empower the US government to sanction officials responsible for rights violations and provide for annual review as to whether Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for special trade considerations.

The House of Representatives approved its own version last month and the two will have to work out differences before the legislation can be sent to President Donald Trump for consideration.

China’s government reacted angrily to the news.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang in a statement said: “This act neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs.

“It is in serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations. China condemns and firmly opposes it.”

In a separate statement, the foreign ministry said it had summoned US Embassy official William Klein to lodge a formal complaint.

Beijing warned of reprisals if Trump pushes the policy through.

“The issue Hong Kong faces is not about human rights or democracy, but about stopping violence and chaos, upholding rule of law and restoring order as soon as possible,” Geng said.

The spokesperson reiterated China’s support to the Hong Kong government and police “in enforcing law, and support the judicial organs in punishing violent criminals, protecting the life and property of citizens and safeguarding prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.”

China believes the approval of the bill exposes the US’ “hidden political agenda” and “paints criminal moves as pursuit of human rights and democracy when the truth is violent criminals rampantly smashed facilities, set fire, bullied and attacked innocent civilians, forcibly occupied university campuses, mobbed young students, and assaulted police officers in a premeditated way.”

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, young anti-government activists were staying put inside the Polytechnic University campus, as their bitter standoff with the city’s police force entered its fourth day.

Between Monday night and Wednesday morning, about 800 people stranded in the Polytechnic University had left the campus in the harbor-side district of Hung Hom in East Kowloon. Among them, 300 were under the age of 18. Exactly how many more are still inside is unclear, but Hong Kong’s Commercial Radio put the number at around 100.

It is believed that hundreds of people who have left the campus — many of them students — have been arrested, although the police have yet to announce the exact number.

Shortly before noon Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee spoke to journalists, saying that all those inside PolyU would be arrested for rioting regardless of the purpose of their assembly on the campus.

In Hong Kong, rioting carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A law scholar who visited the activists Monday night told them they could not be charged for rioting so long as there was not enough evidence against them.

The siege, which has been keeping many Hongkongers on edge, began in the evening Sunday, a violent day in which anti-government protesters, armed with countless Molotov cocktails and bricks, were locked in violent street battles with riot police who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at crowds.

On Wednesday morning, some netizens called for people to paralyze the city’s traffic. Some activists blocked the doors of underground trains to prevent them from moving, while services at some metro stations were suspended but later resumed.

Demonstrations in Hong Kong began in June following a controversial extradition bill, since withdrawn by the government, but have mutated into a movement seeking to improve Hong Kong’s democratic mechanisms and opposition to Beijing’s perceived interference.

The demonstrations have turned into a movement seeking to improve democracy in the city-state and safeguard the region’s partial autonomy from Beijing. EFE -EPA

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600 activists leave besieged Hong Kong university

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

A protester who surrendered to police leaving the Hong Kong Polytechnic University with relatives in Hong Kong, China, 19 November 2019. Hong Kong is in its sixth month of mass protests, which were originally triggered by a now withdrawn extradition bill, and have since turned into a wider pro-democracy movement. EPA-EFE/JEROME FAVRE

Hong Kong – Tension surrounding the siege by Hong Kong police on anti-government protesters holing up inside a university has eased slightly, with 600 of the activists including 200 minors having left the campus between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

In a press briefing Tuesday morning, Hong Kong’s top leader Carrie Lam said there are still some 100 people inside Polytechnic University, which since Sunday evening has been besieged by the police who said anyone walking out of the campus would be arrested immediately and may be charged with rioting.

Among the 600 who got out, 400 were aged 18 or above and were arrested immediately, while 200 were minors and let go after registering with the police.

A small breakthrough came Monday night amid widespread violence on the streets of East Kowloon, when more than 10 secondary school principals went to PolyU to negotiate with the police.

A deal was reached under which trapped activists under the age of 18 could walk free from the campus after having their personal details taken down by the police, but all adults would be arrested.

Several renowned Hong Kong figures, including ex-president of the Legislative Council Jasper Tsang and law scholar Eric Cheung, later arrived at PolyU and talked to the student activists. About 190, including 50 PolyU staff members and university students, then left the campus.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government announced Tuesday the appointment of a new police chief, Tang Ping-keung, to replace Lo Wai-chung, who retired after 35 years’ service.

Lam thanked Lo and said he “has made commendable efforts in maintaining Hong Kong as one of the safest cities in the world.”

The city’s police agency has been at the center of criticism during the unrest for its alleged excessive use of force in response to the demonstrations.

In an interview published Tuesday by the independent South China Morning Post, incoming police chief Tang said that the 31,000-strong police force cannot end the unrest alone but needs the support of Hong Kong residents.

“If everyone had come out earlier to condemn the violence, society would not have turned into this state in five months. We can only end the unrest with society’s condemnation, reflection by the rioters, plus our appropriate tactics,” he said.

Demonstrations in Hong Kong began in June following a controversial extradition bill, since withdrawn by the government, but have mutated into a movement seeking to improve Hong Kong’s democratic mechanisms and opposition to Beijing’s interference.

The demonstrations have turned into a movement seeking to improve democracy in the city-state and safeguard the region’s partial autonomy from Beijing. EFE-EPA

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DFA: Filipinos in Hong Kong are safe, no need for evacuation at this time

Marje Pelayo   •   November 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) assures kin of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Hong Kong that they are safe and remain unaffected by the ongoing public unrest in the southeastern Chinese territory.

The DFA issued a statement following false reports on the plight of Filipino workers and residents in Hong Kong that circulated on social media.

“The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong is closely monitoring the situation and is taking every step to ensure the continued safety and well-being of our nationals there,” the DFA said.

The Department said those who wish to follow the impact of developments in Hong Kong on Filipinos there, are advised to visit the Consulate’s website for updates and advisories “instead of turning to questionable sources of information in the social media.”

In a live broadcast on Facebook, Consul General Raly Tejada allayed fears of families of OFWs living and working in the territory.

“Ang inyong mga mahal sa buhay dito sa Hong Kong ay safe naman po at nasa Mabuti pong kalagayan, (Your loved ones here in Hong Kong are safe),” Tejada said.

“Wala po kayong dapat ipagalala sapagkat ang Konsulado naman po dito ay nananatiling handa upang tumulong sa mga pangangailangan ng mga kababayan natin dito, (You have nothing to worry about because the Consulate is ready to provide them the necessary assistance),” he added.

Meanwhile, Tejada calls on all Filipino residents and workers in Hong Kong to always monitor the Consulate’s advisory through its official Facebook page and website where Philippine officials announce latest information regarding the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

They may also call the Philippine Consulate’s hotline number 91554023 for assistance as they are ready to respond, according to Tejada.

Filipinos who have work contracts in Hong Kong are assured that the territory’s international airport is functional and businesses runs as usual.

However, Consul General Tejada asked non-essential travelers to Hong Kong to defer their plans at this time for their safety.

“Kung pwede po ay ipagpaliban muna at pagisipan po muna natin bago po tayo tumuloy ng Hong Kong (You may opt to defer or reconsider before you travel to Hong Kong),” he said.

“Ang mga public transportation po dito ay naapektuhan po ng rally kaya hindi po dependable sa ngayon (All public transportation here are very much affected by the rally so they are not that dependable at this time),” he concluded.

Tunghayan ang mensahe ng ating Consul General Raly L. Tejada

Posted by Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong on Monday, 11 November 2019

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