THE Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong has advised Filipinos in the former Crown Colony to avoid protest areas starting Sunday (May 24) as tensions rise over Beijing’s planned national security law there.
In an advisory, the Philippine Consulate said they have received reports that a mass protest would be held Sunday in Sogo Mall in Causeway Bay.
Hong Kong was not the only diplomatic post on red alert at the weekend.
The Philippine Embassy in Libya, which for nearly a year had been trying, despite meager resources, to protect thousands of OFWs amid the civil war, reported a third incident involving Filipino workers being injured in the cross fire.
A 60-year-old Filipina nurse was wounded by artillery fire in the outskirts of the Libyan capital late Saturday afternoon.
Embassy Chargé d’affaires Elmer G. Cato said the nurse is the third Filipino casualty since the outbreak of fighting in Tripoli more than a year ago. Two other Filipinos were wounded in rocket attacks in other parts of Tripoli in early months of the fighting.
The embassy said the nurse sustained a shrapnel wound in the shoulder after an artillery round exploded outside the housing compound where she and several other Filipino hospital workers were staying.
The Philippine Embassy in Tripoli has repeatedly reminded members of the Filipino community to be vigilant and take precautions at all times.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has in the past year told OFWs in Libya they will be repatriated for free by the government, but there were only a few takers. Most stayed, citing the handsome wage package for mostly medical workers.
In an advisory issued shortly after the latest incident was reported, the embassy advised Filipinos in areas where exchanges of artillery or heavy weapons or small arms fire are taking place “to relocate when able to avoid getting caught in the cross fire.”
The embassy had earlier raised its concern over the possibility that Filipinos may end up as collateral damage after several hospitals in Tripoli were struck by artillery shells.
Hong Kong face-off
Meanwhile, the Consulate’s advice for OFWs in Hong Kong was timely as most of the some 130,000 Filipino workers there take their dayoff on Sunday.
Hong Kong police fired multiple rounds of tear gas in the Causeway Bay shopping district on Sunday as hundreds of people took to the streets to protest Beijing’s planned national security law for the city, denouncing the proposed legislation as a threat to civil liberties and the end of the “one country, two systems” principle.
The South China Morning Post said tear gas was first fired near the junction of Hennessy Road and Percival Street at 1:24 p.m.
“People Power activist Tam Tak-chi was arrested only minutes earlier while conducting what he called a ‘health talk’ outside the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay on Sunday, saying such talks were exempt from Covid-19 rules banning gatherings of more than eight people,” one report said.
Before the pandemic, Causeway Bay was one of Hong Kong Island’s main shopping districts. It is dotted with multistory buildings housing name brand products, restaurants, electronic shops, clothing and consumer products that attract tourists from across the globe.
During the last two years, however, Hong Kong has been wracked by violent protests from mainly student demonstrators complaining of pressure from Beijing to adopt a law that would allow the repatriation of those charged with criminal offenses to be thrown back to the mainland.
Students and some longtime residents maintain that Hong Kong retains a semblance of autonomy following the handover from Britain in 1997, under the “one country, two system principle.”
During the past two years, however, the Special Administrative Region residents flooded the city’s streets, stormed its legislature and clashed with police amid flames and clouds of tear gas. They stared down local leaders, who they said were doing the bidding of Beijing, and ultimately the government relented.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition movement, however, is now confronting the possibility of Beijing imposing its will by all means, regardless of international opinion.
The Chinese government’s plan, unveiled on Thursday, would have Beijing take a stronger, more direct hand in Hong Kong’s affairs.
The Chinese Communist Party, which held its two sessions this week, hammered a National Security Law described as brooking no dissent and fiercely resistant to compromise, catching pro-democracy protesters by surprise.
Image credits: AP/Vincent Yu