Hong Kong police end 2-week-long siege of university campus

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2019   •   422

Officers from a bomb disposal unit examine items used by protesters to make petrol bombs on the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China, 28 November 2019. EPA-EFE/JEROME FAVRE

The Hong Kong police ended the nearly two-week-long siege of the Polytechnic University at noon on Friday with the withdrawal of all officers surrounding the campus, a day after having discovered a large cache of diverse weapons such as Molotov cocktails, bows and chemicals stowed there.

“After two days, police have removed all dangerous goods and have handled scenes of crime at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU),” the police said in a statement.

The officials seized a total of 3,989 bottles of petrol bombs, 1,339 pieces of explosives, 601 bottles of corrosive liquids and 573 pieces of weapons, according to the statement.

The police officials have withdrawn from the campus and the cordon around the university has been lifted while the campus has been handed to the college’s administration, the police added.

“We reiterate that police adopt a flexible approach in solving the crisis at the PolyU. Police make every effort to resolve the situation peacefully,” the statement said.

The police entered PolyU on Thursday morning – for the first time since they began the siege – to remove dangerous items and gather evidence from the campus.

On Friday morning, the police announced that it would end the siege during the day following repeated calls this week by PolyU’s management for the embattled force to unblock the campus, given that most protesters have left the compound, located in the harbor-side district of Hung Hom in Kowloon.

It is, however, still unclear whether there are still protesters inside – on Wednesday night, one of them emerged and told the press he reckoned there were still 20 people remaining.

The siege began on Nov. 17, when anti-government protesters clashed violently with police in Hung Hom. Many protesters fled into PolyU, but they soon found themselves stuck there as the police besieged the campus and decided to arrest anyone walking out of the campus.

Over the next few days, hundreds of people barricaded inside PolyU handed themselves in while some others used their own ways to escape, including abseiling down from a bridge. Those who stayed put were reluctant to leave, out of fear of being charged with rioting – an offense that carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years – and of being subdued by police with violence.

So far, the police have arrested or taken down the personal details of over 1,000 people walking out of the campus.

The police’s retreat ends a dramatic episode of the months-long protest movement that has incurred the wrath of Hongkongers supporting the movement, as well as the academic world.

This week, over 3,700 professors and lecturers around the globe, including prominent academics such as Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker, signed a petition condemning the “use of disproportionate force and retaliatory brutality by Hong Kong police against students in university campuses” in Hong Kong. EFE-EPA

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Health waivers mandatory for Filipinos leaving for Hong Kong, Macau

Marje Pelayo   •   February 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino household helpers may now return to their employers in Hong Kong after the Philippine government ordered a partial lifting of the travel ban amid the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay confirmed the order on Tuesday (February 18) as Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo noted that the partial lifting was in response to the mounting requests from returning workers to Hong Kong.

“There had been persistent requests from the OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) themselves,” he said.

“In fact, I received one call that he was fired from that position because he has not gone back, maybe that’s the reason why,” he added.

However, confusions emerged over the terms and conditions for their return, specifically the government’s requirement that they sign a written declaration acknowledging the risk of coronavirus infection if they head to the administrative territory.

But the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) stressed that such declaration is mandatory.

“With the exemption, OFWs returning to Hong Kong and Macau shall be required to execute a declaration which states that they are aware of the risks involved,” the DFA said in an advisory.

“Newly-hired Filipino employees are likewise exempted from the ban as long as they also sign the form that can be obtained from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA),” it added.

Nonetheless, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin assured that despite the risk, the government will always be ready to provide them assistance even as one Filipino maid has been confirmed positive for the virus.

“Don’t worry, they’ll sign health waivers but we won’t waive our obligation to take care of them wherever they are,” Locsin said.

Aside from the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Filipinos with permanent residency status in Macau and China are also allowed to depart as well as Filipino students enrolled there.

Meanwhile, Filipino travelers from China with foreign spouses and their children will also be allowed entry to the Philippines as well as all holders of diplomatic visas subject to a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival.

Filipino maid in HK tests positive for coronavirus, contact tracing launched

Marje Pelayo   •   February 19, 2020

HONG KONG – The Philippine Consulate General confirmed on Tuesday (February 18) that a Filipino household helper tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Currently isolated at Pamela Youde Nethersole Estern Hospital in Chai Wan, the 32-year-old Filipina maid initially tested negative of COVID-19 after she consulted for cough and slight fever.

Three days later, she returned with a positive result.

She is believed to have contracted the virus from her 67-year-old employer who tested positive for the virus on February 13.

Philippine Consul General Raly Tejada said they have launched contact tracing of the people who were in close contact with the Filipina maid in the past weeks.

He assured that all necessary assistance will be provided to the Filipino national.

“The Consulate General sent a team to the hospital to check on her condition,” the Consul General said in a statement.

“Rest assured that the government will render all necessary assistance to the Filipino national,” he added.

The Filipino domestic worker is the 61st positive case of COVID-19 in the administrative territory.

The report came on the day the Philippine government allowed Filipino domestic workers to return to their employers in Hong Kong amid the coronavirus crisis.

In an advisory, the Consulate General advised all Filipinos in Hong Kong to always monitor their health conditions and avoid crowded places to prevent contagion. MNP (with inputs from Ferdie Petalio)

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Hong Kong restaurants fight coronavirus with “hygiene ambassador” and table partitions

UNTV News   •   February 17, 2020

Restaurants in Hong Kong have stepped up their efforts in improving their hygiene measures in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Time Cafe, a restaurant in Hong Kong’s Kowloon Bay district, has turned some of their servers into “hygiene ambassadors”, tasking their staff with performing temperature-checks at the door, turning away those with signs of fever and promoting good hand hygiene.

Wearing doctor-style gowns, they also give regular reminders to the other restaurant staff to wash their hands regularly.

Another diner, Kam Ka Lok located in the Tak Kok Tsui neighborhood, has set up transparent plastic partitions to separate customers who share the same table, a common practice in the city’s eating establishments.

“It’s better than nothing”, said 35-year-old clerk Michelle Yiu, one of the customers, to Reuters. “If they changed the board every time they have new customers sitting at the table, I would feel more safe.”

The measure is intended to prevent the transmission of droplets that may spread the coronavirus, but some customers said they were still worried. (Reuters)

(Production: YoYo Chow)

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