Hongkongers Protest Quarantine Clinics, Angry Over Open China Border

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers US, China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
February 16, 2020Updated: February 16, 2020

Hundreds of Hongkongers and several pro-democracy lawmakers marched in Kwai Chung District on Feb. 16 to protest a government plan to name an outpatient clinic as one of 18 designated coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment clinics in the city.

Locals taking part in the march, protesting plans to name the South Kwai Chung Jockey Club General Outpatient Clinic as one of those facilities, could be heard shouting slogans such as “the government’s incompetence kills Hong Kong people” and “there are no ‘rioters,’ only a tyrannical regime,” according to Hong Kong media.

To express their anger over the government’s plans and open China border policy, protesters also stomped on the portraits of several Hong Kong government officials, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, health secretary Sophia Chan, and security secretary John Lee.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin said that the designated clinic in Kwai Chung was inappropriate because it is less than 20 meters away from a local residential area, reported Hong Kong media RTHK.

Wan added that the government had dismissed his suggestion to build a temporary clinic at an unused park in Kwai Chung.

There is still strong public dissent in Hong Kong over Lam’s refusal to fully close the city’s border with China. Hong Kong has 57 known cases of COVID-19—the third-highest outside of mainland China—after Singapore with 72 cases and Japan with 59.

Last week, Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority designated 18 clinics as centers for treating suspected cases of COVID-19, particularly patients with mild symptoms of pneumonia. The announcement immediately met with strong public opposition.

On Wednesday, local media HKFP reported that 5,000 locals had signed a petition to Hong Kong’s Department of Health opposing the designation of the Kennedy Town Jockey Club General Outpatient Clinic as a COVID-19 treatment center.

District councilor Cherry Wong argued that suspected patients would need to travel through a crowded residential area before reaching the clinic, making it an unsuitable option to contain the virus, HKFP reported.

Another district councilor, Fergus Leung, criticized Lam’s government for failing to consult with local residents or the district council before implementing the plan, according to HKFP.

On Saturday, street protests occurred in Kennedy Town, Tai Po, Aberdeen, and Tin Shui Wai against proposed clinics in their areas.

In Tin Shui Wai, hundreds of people took part in a march against the government plan, while shouting slogans like “people of Tin Shui Wai resist.”

After the march, a group of people reportedly dumped trash cans on the local light rail tracks. Local media reported that riot police were called in, firing pepper-spray on a number of people at the scene, including journalists.

According to RTHK, police arrested a total of 33 people following the incident.

Meanwhile, in Tai Po, the Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority said in a statement on Saturday that there had been an act of vandalism against the Tai Po Jockey Club General Outpatient Clinic in the morning.

“The government didn’t listen to public demands of a complete border closure, and now they want to set up epidemic clinics in 18 districts,” Chan Mei-lin, a disenchanted resident in Tin Shui Wai, told Reuters on Saturday. “Doing that is like creating more wounds rather than trying to stop the bleeding.”