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COVID-19 quarantine and travel restrictions challenge Hong Kong’s domestic helpers

Ybañez’s 68-year old mother, living in Cebu City in the Philippines, was hospitalized for high blood pressure and diabetes for two months before her death. Ybañez, 40, who has been working in Hong Kong for almost three years, would have to quarantine in both the Philippines and upon return in Hong Kong for five weeks in total.  Employers of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong are required to pay for one trip home for each helper every two years. In response to the pandemic, the Immigration Department mandates that prospective employers sign the undertaking of the employer document agreeing to pay for their employees’ Covid tests and all quarantine expenses upon entry to Hong Kong.  “My employer couldn't afford it," said Ybañez. "Even if I had gone, they could only wait for one week before burial and I had to do two weeks of quarantine in the Philippines, so it was impossible to see her.” Low availability of flights and quarantine hotel rooms, travel bans and vaccination requirements have made travel in and out of the city challenging for foreign domestic helpers.  In April, Hong Kong banned flights from the Philippines, and in June this year another flight ban extended to Indonesia, significantly impacting the wait time for inbound employees. Both these bans were lifted in August.  In September, the government opened Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre on Lantau Island to helpers who are fully vaccinated with non-Hong Kong available vaccinations for 21 days quarantine, allocating nearly 800 rooms with a price capped at HK$500 per night. Helpers vaccinated with either Pfizer/BioNTech or Sinovac can also quarantine in hotels upon their arrival.  The pandemic has doubled the number of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong seeking help from local NGO Mission For Migrant Workers this year, the NGO said. More than …

Society

Tai Hang Sai Estate: elderly’s struggle under redevelopment

Today, Pun Git-fong, 90, doesn't take a nap with the TV on like usual. Instead, on this cloudy afternoon, she puts on her old blouse, closes the door and starts an arduous five-minute journey down the stairs from the fifth floor to the ground floor. Her neighbours are waiting for her. They are about to rally. More than 30 residents of Tai Hang Sai Estate, Hong Kong's last private housing estate for low-income families, are protesting a redevelopment plan that has been in the works for more than six years. The residents, many of whom have lived here for decades, say both the developer and the government are ignoring their needs and failing to communicate transparently.  Residents want to be given a place to live during the redevelopment, which is expected to last five years. Currently, they’ve been told they need to find their own housing. The crowd, mostly seniors, chants: "One house for one house; relocation needs common agreement. We only want to enjoy the old age; we don't want to drift from place to place." "Don't toss about the elderly; government helps placement,” they shouted. Established in 1965, Tai Hang Sai Estate offered shelter to tenants who lost their homes during the 1953 Christmas day fire in  Shek Kip Mei. The fire, which destroyed the entire estate and caused 3 deaths and 51 injured, brought the issue of safe public housing policy to light.  However, Tai Hang Sai Estate is not qualified as one. The British Hong Kong government offered a discount to developer Hong Kong Housing Corporation Limited (HKHCL) to buy the land for estate construction in 1961, which classified the site into private property.  "Either Hong Kong Housing Authority or any other Hong Kong authorities could manage the estate," says 64-year-old Tam Kwok-kiu, the former District …

Society

Hong Kong Health Code for travel to mainland launches next week along with update for LeaveHomeSafe; city still waiting for quarantine-free travel

The government said the new health code app compatible with Guangdong and Macau to facilitate travel to the mainland will be available at 9am on Dec 10, though it has not yet announced when quarantine-free travel will begin. “The government is still negotiating with the mainland authorities but said it had come to the final stage after the visit of mainland experts to Hong Kong,” Alfred Sit Wing-hang, the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, said in a press conference today. The government said it will also provide an update for the LeaveHomeSafe app, which allows users to transfer visiting records to the mainland-compatible Hong Kong Health Code app. The app will be launched as a “pilot run” before quarantine-free travel starts with no need to rush, said Sit. Users will need to provide personal information, such as their address and HKID card number, and upload the visiting record from LeaveHomeSafe. The authorities said 31 days of record will be uploaded, but only the past 21 days of record will be used to generate the code required for border crossings. Users whose records do not show visits to high-risk places and are not close contacts or household contacts of close contacts of confirmed cases in the past 21 days will get a green code. For those who have no plan to travel to the mainland, Sit said they do not need to update their LeaveHomeSafe app. “The government has no plan, and did not see the need for real-name registration for the LeaveHomeSafe App,” Sit added. Li Yan-yi, 27, said she will not use the Hong Kong Health Code app. “I have no plan to go to the mainland, and have tons of privacy concerns for the app,” said Li. “When the government launched the app, they said it is all …

Society

Sinovac jabs for 12-17 year olds start today

From 9 am this morning, people aged between 12 and 17 years old can book for a Sinovac Covid vaccine through the Centre for Health Protection website. They need to bring along their identity documents, consent form signed by their parents or guardians and present the SMS message or the photocopy of booking confirmation at government vaccination centres. They can also get the vaccination through schools,, from private doctors or clinics, Community Vaccination Centres and the Student Health Services Centres of the Department of Health.   Secondary student, Clayton Chan who was vaccinated today said he was only doing so because of a swimming competition. “I will not receive the Sinovac vaccination unless there is a strong reason such as participating in an overseas competition as I am afraid of the side effects of the vaccination such as fever and the swelling of the injection site,” Clayton said. His mother, Carrie Chan, was willing to let her son get Sinovac because she too has had the jab.  “I only had mild side effects such as being tired and having a headache after receiving the Sinovac vaccination”, said Ms. Chan. She  believed Sinovac will be safe for those aged 3-17 years because many teenagers  were among more than 100 million people who got vaccinated in mainland China and there is no major safety concern. “It shows that there has been sufficient scientific research to prove its safety and protection,” Ms. Chan said. “It is expected that after the launch of the Sinovac vaccination, the vaccination rate among secondary school students will be increased to over 80%, which will help the secondary schools to resume full time face-to-face lessons,” said Professor Lau Yu-lung, chairman of the Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases in an RTHK programme on Nov. 20.  Schools can resume full-day …

Society

HK Government tightens quarantine requirements for nine countries with Covid-19 Omicron variant cases, including Australia and Canada

Hong Kong added nine countries with Omicron cases, including Australia and Canada, to the city’s high-risk group starting Wednesday over fears of the heavily mutated Covid-19 variant.  Under the tightened requirements, only Hong Kong residents who are fully-vaccinated and hold a recognised vaccination record can enter the city from countries in the high-risk group, which already includes the United States. Arrivals have to undergo a 21-day quarantine in a designated hotel instead of 14 days. Alice Chan Lai-sim, 66, a retiree who has lived in Sydney for 26 years, said she and her husband canceled their plans to return to Hong Kong to visit her relatives during the Christmas holidays due to the new arrangement.  “Though I have had two shots of AstraZeneca in Sydney before, I still have to quarantine in a designated hotel for 21 days and conduct six tests during quarantine in Hong Kong,” she said.  Her husband, Duncan Ip Wai-kwong, 69, who works in the IT industry, said they are also uncertain about the spread of Omicron in the city.  Hong Kong confirmed three imported Omicron cases discovered in arrivals during hotel quarantine.  “There are fewer Omicron cases in Hong Kong compared to New South Wales. However, Hong Kong still shows potential danger to travellers like us as most of the Omicron cases found in Hong Kong quarantine hotels that we have to stay in,” Ip said.  New South Wales, where Chan and Ip live, has recorded five Omicron cases.  On Sunday, the World Health Organization designated Omicron a “variant of concern” days after it was first reported from South Africa on Nov. 24.  There is little information on the heavily mutated variant, as the world waits to see if current vaccines will hold up. "Hong Kong's very stringent system of boarding, quarantine and also testing …

Society

Secretary for Education denounces "lying flat" trend, emphasizes values education

Secretary for Education, Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, denounced the “lying flat” trend, the attitude of doing nothing popular among young people in the mainland, and highlighted the importance of values education in Hong Kong schools in an online post yesterday The “lying flat” movement started in April when a post on the Chinese popular website Baidu titled “Lying Flat Is Justice” went viral. It  refers to young people who strive for nothing more than what is essential for survival.  “The recent trend of "lying flat" is even more worrying. A negative life attitude can easily cause depression and hinder social development in the long run,” Yueng wrote in his post. “I am grieved for that, just the same feeling as many parents and teachers who love those kids.” Yeung also said the government will soon release the curriculum framework for the recently proposed values education, which includes moral and ethical education, civic education, and national education.   The education bureau said promoting activities related to Chinese history will allow students to learn about the essence of Chinese culture, absorb traditional wisdom, and cultivate moral sentiment.  “We must work together to promote values ​​education rooted in Chinese culture together and support students to build positive thinking,” the online article said.                                       “I think the new curriculum has a political agenda and I hope the teachers could be professional enough to tackle this,” said Lau, a local high school teacher who said he is responsible for executing the values education curriculum at his school. He requested anonymity over concerns about his work.  In June, Yeung told the Legislative Council that the bureau will send teachers to mainland universities to enhance their understanding of the nation's development. Teachers will also attend training courses related to national affairs, the Basic Law and the National Security Law.  The …

Society

Light rail passengers worried about safety after a woman was pushed onto the track

Sarah Chan Miu-ching, 21, lives in Tuen Mun and takes the light rail transit three or four times a week.   "I am definitely worried about falling on the track just like what happened to the woman yesterday as there is no platform screen door,” Ms. Chan said. A 47-year-old woman was walking on the platform at Tai Hing (North) station yesterday when a man whom she did not know suddenly pushed her onto the track. The woman’s left shoulder was injured. Police later arrested the suspect at Ching Chung station. Safety facilities at road junctions in the light rail system include traffic lights, road signs on light rail reserved area and vehicle height restrictions, yellow box marking and a bell before the light rail enters a road junction, according to the spokesman in the Legislative Council in 2011. Kitty Wong Yuen-yi, a secretary working in the MTR company, said that the automatic platform gates cannot be installed on the light rail because its operation system is different from other railway systems in the city.  “When a train approaches a station, only the driver can stop the carriage and open or close the platform gates,” Ms Wong explained.”Since the road is shared with other vehicles, it’s technically difficult to install the gates.” “There are no platform screen doors like at MTR stations. It’s so easy to be shoved onto the track just like what happened to the woman yesterday,”  Zoe Cheung Man-yi, 46, a Tuen Mun resident said. She urged the MTR corporation to pay more attention to accidents at railway stations and tackle them as soon as possible. In 2017, a man pushed a female cleaning worker off the track at the Yuen Long Light Rail Station. The worker had fractured elbows and injuries to her jaw and lips.

Society

Carrie Lam emphasises the central government does not “owe” Hong Kong citizens universal election

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the central government does not “owe” citizens universal suffrage stated in the Basic Law in an enrichment talk to Citizenship and Social Development teachers today.  The subject “Citizenship and Social Development” was established last year to replace the core subject “Liberal Studies”, which has been accused of leading to social unrest in 2019. The new subject requires teachers to use “reliable and authoritative sources” to teach. For example, government documents and official quotes. She said some democrats have misled the public to believe that the central government did not approve a universal election which is promised in the Basic Law. Lam said the central government did approve the Hong Kong government to political reform three times. She suggests that the increasing number of members in the election committee of the Chief Executive shows the central government is striving for democracy. Lam said the proposal of “831 decision” allowed the public to have a universal election. The “831 decision” allowed universal suffrage with a “nomination committee”, which is similar to the current election committee, to nominate the candidates for the Chief Executive election before public voting. “It was a very brave move by the central government but sadly it was banned by the opposition in the Legislative Council,” said Lam. She said the governor before the handover was also not elected by the public, and the central government wants to keep the system the same as before the handover which citizens are used to. “The idea that the central government owes citizens a universal election is wrong,” said Lam. “The British government did not give any say to Hong Kong citizens for choosing who is the governor.” Shum Pui-yee, a Secondary 4 student studying Citizenship and Social Development, said the above idea was already …

Society

Former Studentlocalism convenor Tony Chung sentenced to three years and seven months for secession and money laundering

Hong Kong political activist Tony Chung hon lam, was jailed for 43 months for violating National Security Law and money laundering after pleading guilty to secession. Judge Chan Kwong Chi described Chung’s act as deceiving and a waste of effort. Chung, former Studentlocalism and Initiative Independence Party convenor, was arrested on Oct. 27 last year near the US consulate in Hong Kong, pleaded guilty on Nov. 3 stating “I have no shame in my heart” and on the court for sentence at District Court today.  He pleaded guilty to the charge of secession and money laundering for around 135 thousand in Paypal, and the charges of conspiracy to publish seditious materials and money laundering for 500 thousand in HSBC were left on file under a plea bargain. Chung, former Studentlocalism and Initiative Independence Party convenor, was arrested on Oct. 27 last year near the US consulate in Hong Kong, pleaded guilty on Nov. 3 stating “I have no shame in my heart” and on the court for sentence at District Court today.  He pleaded guilty to the charge of secession and money laundering for around 135 thousand in Paypal, and the charges of conspiracy to publish seditious materials and money laundering for 500 thousand in HSBC were left on file under a plea bargain. Chung was placed in the second sentencing bracket of three to seven years under active participation in the crime of the national security law, and a year and six months for the charge of money laundering (three months served non-concurrently), in total 43 months. The defendant intercede was taken into consideration, including Chung’s mother letter of pleading, the argument of Chung’s advocacy of Hong Kong independence on social media does not directly encourage violent acts in real life and have less impact than traditional political parties, …

Society

Netflix anime series Arcane ends season one on a high note, confirms its next chapter

Netflix original series, Arcane, released its last three episodes on Saturday to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Scoring full marks on IGN and Rotten Tomatoes and a high 9.4/10 on IMDB, Arcane confirmed on the same day that season two is in production. The animated series, based on the popular multiplayer online game League of Legends, surpassed the drama series Squid Game as the most popular show on video streaming platforms in more than 50 countries. The fantasy series, based in twin cities Piltover and Zaun, tells the origin stories of several characters from the game in a first for the video game company, Riot Games. Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent announced that the production of Arcane season two had already begun just two hours after the release of the final episode, saying the new season will not be released in 2022. Riot Games promoted the series all over the world, including The Arcane Experience Exhibition in a cafe in Seoul as well as a promotional video displayed on Dubai’s iconic skyscraper Burj Khalifa. French production company Fortiche used digitally hand-painted backgrounds and texture on the characters and mixed 2D animation and 3D animation. Fortiche’s involvement in Riot Games’s video production goes back to the 2014 music video “Get Jinxed” and 2018 League of Legends’s virtual girl group K/DA’s music video “POP/STARS”, which has gained more than 450 million views on YouTube.   Riot Games is a subsidiary of Chinese company Tencent. Its viral online game, League of Legends, has gained US$1.75 billion revenue in the year 2020, with over 100 million active users logging on every month. Leung Ming Hon, a Hong Kong fan of League of Legends, said he enjoyed the show because of the storytelling, animation and music. Through the TV series, he said he understood the background stories of …