Protests unfolded around Hong Kong over the weekend against government plans to set up designated coronavirus clinics near residential areas.

The demonstrations came as the Hospital Authority announced that 18 out-patient clinics in 17 districts would be transformed into clinics to treat people with suspected Covid-19 infections. There have been over 71,000 cases globally and over 1,700 deaths including one locally.

Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

The plan was rolled out without prior public consultation, spurring a backlash in communities such as those around the South Kwai Chung Jockey Club General Out-Patient Clinic and Kennedy Town’s Jockey Club General Out-Patient Clinic.

Clinics vandalised

Police said that a Saturday protest in Tin Shui Wai was halted after Tin Sau Light Rail Stop was set on fire by demonstrators. The Force said that Tin Sau Road was later occupied by protesters who blocked the road with rubbish bins, wood, foam boxes and debris.

District Councillors Ng Kin-wai and Hau Man-kin were among those pepper-sprayed, as officers arrested 33 people.

Ng Kin-wai. Photo: inmediahk.net.

The Hospital Authority condemned vandalism to two clinics during Saturday’s protests – the Tai Po Jockey Club General Out-patient Clinic and Tsuen Wan’s Mrs Wu York Yu General Out-patient Clinic: “The malicious behaviours… [affected] the operations of clinics and [compromised] patient safety,” a press release read.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo, who attended a demonstration in Cheung Sha Wan, told HKFP that the government could “use other more desirable sites, including PLA barracks.”

Claudia Mo at the protest. Photo: inmediahk.net.

When asked if lawmakers or district councillors were told about the clinic plans, she said: “None… [Chief Executive] Carrie Lam behaves like a tinpot dictator and obviously thinks she can do just anything she wants… the residents should at least be consulted over the designated clinic plan.”

“Carrie Lam starts the fire on one hand, and pretends to try to have it put out on the other. Hongkongers caught in the middle are getting burnt.” Mo added.

 Tin Shui Wai light rail tracks. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Fo Tan clinic

Meanwhile, District Councillor Mak Tsz-kin told HKFP that he was stopped and searched by a police officer at a Fo Tan protest before the assembly began: “He asked me questions with a very unfriendly attitude,” he said. He also questioned if water cannon trucks deployed at Shan Mei Street were necessary.

Mak said that chances of community outbreak in the neighbourhood were a concern: “We have no confidence in this government. Incidents of home-quarantined patients escaping are not unheard of. How do they ensure that there will be enough manpower to monitor the situation?”

“Are you oblivious of the coronavirus under our nose?” Photo: Chau Ho Man/United Social Press.

On Saturday, the government said they have stringent requirements when considering a site and that “security and healthcare staff will be on duty round the clock in the quarantine centres.” The statement added that only those with written permission from health personnel could enter or leave the centres.

MacLehose Holiday Village, Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village, Po Leung Kuk Jockey Club Pak Tam Chung Holiday Camp, as well as Jao Tsung-I Academy have been converted into quarantine centres to accommodate those who have been in close contact with infected people or those who have been to Hubei Province over the past 14 days. The former three are close to their maximum capacity, according to the government.

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Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.