About 100 people protest in Hong Kong over plan to use Fo Tan public housing estate as quarantine site

Kimmy Chung

A group of about 100 people in Hong Kong launched a protest on Wednesday against a government plan to use a public housing estate in Sha Tin as a quarantine centre amid the coronavirus outbreak, now known as Covid-19.

“Return us the Chun Yeung Estate. Say no to the quarantine centre,” they chanted, as they marched in Fo Tan, Sha Tin.

Most of them were set to move into the new estate next month, but only received an SMS from the Housing Department on Tuesday notifying them of a change in plans.

Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan. Photo: Felix Wong

The controversy centred on a U-turn by city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who earlier pledged that no new public housing estates would be used for quarantine purposes.

She appealed for understanding to use the Fo Tan site, saying existing quarantine centres were fully occupied and there was a desperate need for more places.

Quarantine furore says much about what’s wrong with HK

But residents were frustrated and angry over the lack of consultation.

Debbie Law, a mother of two, said: “No one notified us until the SMS came in yesterday.

“They did not mention any compensation. We waited eight years to move into public housing. It is just unfair!”

The estate, located in an industrial area, is set to house around 4,800 families.

Riot police stand guard as the march gets under way. Photo: Sam Tsang

Another mother, Nikki Wong, 30, joined the protest with her seven-year-old daughter. “We have waited for 6½ years. My husband is working in the retail sector and has suffered under the economic downturn over the past months,” she said.

“We can barely afford the rent, and just wish to move into the new flat to improve our living environment.”

Wong added that her family of three had scrambled to cough up the $7,000 monthly rent for their subdivided flat.

Another woman surnamed Kwok, who waited seven years for public housing, described her disappointment as “falling from heaven”.

She said although she understood the need for quarantine centres, she believed there were other solutions and accused the government of acting too slow in closing the borders with mainland China.

Other residents living in Fo Tan were among the protesters, with some worrying their health would be in danger, although medical experts had suggested the distance between all designated facilities and residential zones was adequate.

“The problem is that we have no confidence in the government. There is no assurance that police will be on guard to prevent anyone from the quarantine site coming out,” a resident who only gave her name as Judith, 27, said.

A retired couple who also lives in the area and who only gave their family name as Chu said they were “not blindly opposing the government”, but were unsatisfied with the lack of transparency.

“If the government told us earlier and assured us with a basket of preventive measures against the outbreak, there will be less opposition,” Chu said. “Can’t they use the camp site of the People’s Liberation Army?”

The protest march lasted two hours, under the watchful eye of riot police. Officers raised a blue warning flag for illegal assembly and banned participants from coming near the estate concerned.

A photo of appliances and furniture along a corridor, given out by district councillor Mak Tsz-kin who says this was taken at the estate in question.

District councillor Mak Tsz-kin claimed he saw some flats in the estate already furnished with tables and had fans installed, but authorities did not confirm this.

Slamming the government for not sharing any information with the district council, Mak said he would hold another protest in the area on Sunday, appealing for all residents to join and force the withdrawal of the plan.

 

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