More Hong Kong protests planned as metro limps back to business

A commuter jumps over a turnstile at Yau Ma Tei station of Hong Kong’s metro system after its partial opening. The usually efficient service was forced to shut down after arson attacks by anti-government protesters. (Reuters)
Updated 10 October 2019

More Hong Kong protests planned as metro limps back to business

  • MTR Corp, whose network carries about 5 million passengers a day, said all lines would close more than three hours earlier than normal
  • Closures come ahead of more protests on Thursday and others planned for the rest of the week

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s metro rail system will shut early again on Thursday to allow time to repair damaged facilities, its operator said as the city braced for more anti-government demonstrations after a string of violent protests in the Asian financial hub.
MTR Corp, whose network carries about 5 million passengers a day, said a line servicing a densely populated area in the city’s New Territories would not operate and all lines would close by 9p.m., more than three hours earlier than normal.
The usually efficient service was forced to shut down after arson attacks by anti-government protesters on Friday night, paralyzing transport across the Chinese-ruled city. It has operated only partially since.
The closures also come ahead of more protests on Thursday and others planned for the rest of the week.
The unrest started more than four months ago in what began as opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill but has since widened into a pro-democracy movement amid fears that China is encroaching on Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Those freedoms were guaranteed under a “one country, two systems” formula when Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, a formula that allows wide-ranging autonomy not enjoyed on the mainland.
However, the unrest has pushed the special administrative region into its worst political crisis since 1997 and poses the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
Demonstrations planned for Thursday include some in support of Taiwan on its National Day and rallies against perceived police brutality, with protesters expected to wear eye patches to show solidarity with a young protester who was injured in clashes with police.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in a National Day speech Hong Kong was “on the edge of disorder” because of the failure of “one country, two systems,” and she vowed to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty as Beijing ramps up pressure on the self-ruled island.
Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province and there had been suggestions in China after Hong Kong’s 1997 return that Taiwan could be brought back into the fold under a similar formula.
Hong Kong is still recovering from a long weekend of violent clashes between police and tens of thousands of protesters.
Scores of shops remain boarded up after being trashed or torched, anti-government graffiti is scrawled over bus stops and buildings, and some streets are still strewn with broken glass and twisted metal debris.
Protest violence has often targeted the MTR mass transit system, which has been accused of closing stations at the government’s behest to stop demonstrators gathering.
The city’s economy has been hammered by the protests as it faces its first recession in a decade. The tourism and retail sectors have been hit particularly hard as visitors stay away.
Shopping malls and businesses have been forced to shut repeatedly, while a slew of events and conferences have moved to other locations, including Singapore.
The political sensitivities of the protests have also ensnared international businesses, with the US National Basketball Association the latest example after Chinese organizers on Wednesday canceled a fan event over a tweet by a team official supporting the Hong Kong protests.
China has warned foreign governments to stay out of the protests which they deem as an internal affair and have accused some, including Britain and the United States, of fanning anti-China sentiment.


Seoul mulls electronic wristbands for quarantine violators 

Updated 08 April 2020

Seoul mulls electronic wristbands for quarantine violators 

  • Repeat offenders face $8,000 fines or up to one year in prison

SEOUL: South Korea is considering electronic wristbands as a way to track people who break quarantine conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The idea follows a rising number of people flouting the rules, leaving their homes despite the government’s tough stance against violations.

South Korea reported 53 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the nation’s total number of infections to 10,384, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the total number of reported deaths rose to 200. 

“A majority of people are following self-isolation rules, but there have been some cases of (people) leaving (designated venues),” Yoon Tae-ho, director-general for public health policy at the Ministry of Health, told reporters. “Unless the self-isolation rules are observed, it will make the government consider various options to prevent such a move.”

Authorities were looking for practical and effective ways to monitor people isolated at homes and facilities, he said, adding there were concerns about electronic wristbands in terms of privacy and the infringements of rights.

The electronic wristband, which would be connected to a mobile app, would trigger an alarm and alert authorities when it moved more than 10 meters away from the smartphone installed with the app, ministry officials said.

South Korea has a two-week quarantine period for all international arrivals. Authorities have found 75 people breaching the self-isolation rules, and six of them are to be prosecuted.

The government has increased penalties for quarantine violators to a maximum one-year jail term or $8,000 in fines.

Several people, including foreign nationals, have in recent weeks broken the self-isolation rules put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. 

The city of Gunpo, south of Seoul, reported a married couple in their 50s to the police for ignoring the rules. Health authorities found that the couple, who had tested positive for the virus, went out several times during the self-isolation period to visit an art gallery, lottery shops, supermarkets, and banks.  

In Gunsan, around 270 kilometers south of Seoul, three Vietnamese students were found leaving their quarantine premises without permission on April 3. They went out, leaving their smartphones behind to avoid being tracked by the authorities. The Ministry of Justice is now considering deporting the students.