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Society

TYR was to win Human Rights Press Awards; FCC cancels awards

The Young Reporter is proud to announce that it was scheduled to win two Human Rights Press Awards this year before the Foreign Correspondents’ Club cancelled the awards on Monday, just days before the winners were to be announced.  Former TYR reporters and editors Sara Cheng, Simran Vaswani and Kylan Goh were to win both first and second place in the university student category, according to the award list leaked to Hong Kong Free Press. The TYR story Running District Councils in absence of colleagues arrested under NSL: work and a doubtful fate, reported by Cheng and edited by Goh, was to be the winner in the student category. The TYR article reported the difficulties faced by district councillors after colleagues were arrested under the National Security Law. “The reporter’s rigour and resolve in tackling a sensitive topic in a city with diminishing press freedoms, where so few people are actually willing to speak on these issues in the wake of the National Security Law (NSL),” said the judges’ comments. The other winner in this category was scheduled to be a report by U-Beat Magazine, published by journalism students at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Another TYR story, ‘It’s either them or us’: desperate protestors take to Myanmar streets as junta uses arrests, violence to keep power, reported by Cheng and edited by Vaswani, was scheduled to win a merit prize. The judges’ comments said the report “stood out for quality and comprehensive reporting”. The documentary Pledging Allegiance reported by San Po Yan Magazine, TYR’s sister publication, the Chinese-language newspaper run by journalism students at Hong Kong Baptist University, was also scheduled to win a merit in the same category, along with reports by U-Beat Magazine and Varsity, also published by journalism students at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.  …

Society

Hong Kong's health care system under stress during the fifth wave of Covid-19

Wong Sze-kai, 30, is a frontline doctor at the Accident and Emergency Department. He feels that some of his patients are "waiting to die". “They were lying on the ground. No meals, no medicine, and no one can help them change their diapers. It’s a living hell,” he said.  As the number of older and critically ill Covid-19 patients continues to mount, Hong Kong’s public hospitals, especially their Accidents and Emergency Departments, are under intense pressure.  Hundreds of  infected elderly people in need of treatment and oxygen had no alternative but to stay in the A&E wards, in corridors, or in lobbies because there was no space in the general wards. “I've heard a few junior nurses cry, not for themselves, but because of the pitiful sight of the patients,” Wong said. As of March 27, nine of the city’s 16 public hospitals reached full occupancy, according to the Hospital Authority’s figures. Wong said the very purpose of creating the Hospital Authority 30 years ago was to tackle the same problems of overloading capacity in hospitals with long waiting times that have been faced year after year. But the problem still exists even before Covid hit the city. Sunny Ho, 22, is a nurse from the Specialist Outpatient Department at Queen Mary Hospital, one of the 10 public hospitals that have been stretched to the limits during the outbreak of the fifth wave of Covid. “The guidelines are constantly changing. The government imposed too many unnecessary preventive measures, adding to the burden on the medical staff. For example, as soon as there was a case, they immediately closed the lift and the overpass and did a lot of contact tracing,” Ho said. “But now the outbreak is a mess. There is not enough manpower and resources to follow the previous …

Society

M+ museum reopened after a three-month closure

The M+ museum reopened on Thursday as the social distancing restraints relaxed. Residents visited the museum after the Tiananmen satires had been replaced with new installations.

Society

Cornering caregivers at home puts them under intense pandemic stress

Debby Kwan Ho-kwan, 27, has been suffering from systemic lupus erythematosus for 10 years and stiff person syndrome for three years. Lupus is a form of immune system disorder that requires life-long medication and treatment, and stiff person syndrome leads to progressive muscle stiffness. Although Kwan can manage her own medical treatments like anticoagulant injection, her mother worries about a relapse of SLE. She frets over whether to seek hospitalisation if that happens, which may expose her daughter to COVID-19. The pressure builds when Kwan’s mother tries to understand new policies and chart new solutions almost every day.  “Sometimes, my mum suffers from insomnia. She has to take medication under such mental pressure,” said Kwan.  Since the start of the pandemic, caregivers like Kwan’s mother often prioritise the elderly, children and chronically ill patients over themselves. The restriction of face-to-face contacts during COVID-19 poses challenges to patient rehabilitation. Their caregivers often have to extend their working hours and more preparation work is required. “Many caregivers cannot withstand the pressure-cooker-like environment anymore,” said Zoe Chong Shuk-yi, a dementia care planner working at Renascence Integrated Rehabilitation Centre. Chong and Alvin Shum Chun-kit have devoted their support to dementia patients and their caregivers throughout the pandemic.  Since the fifth wave of Covid outbreak, they have suspended on-site visits. Instead, they prepare extra cognitive training tools for home-training and help carers overcome technical issues when they engage with dementia sufferers during online training sessions because the patients often have a short attention span.  Dementia patients need a regular rehabilitation schedule in order to maintain their brain functions. They need constant cognitive therapy and practice, otherwise their conditions will deteriorate quickly, Chong explained.  “A number of them seemed to be more sluggish than before,” she said.  Before the fifth wave of pandemic struck Hong Kong, …

Society

Blind saxophonist in China’s national disabled performing troupe speaks on success and overcoming challenges

“One more time. Don’t make the audience feel your actions are too stiff, ” the director of the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games 2022 in Beijing said to Wang Qi as he practiced walking and turning on the stage.  “Try to reduce the sense of performance,” the director said. Wang was practicing raising his hands to display the emblem of the winter Paralympic Games to the world at the opening ceremony on March 4.  “I had to practice once and once again to form muscle memory,” he said. “We have been rehearsing intensively since January.” Wang, 40, a leading saxophonist in China, has been performing in the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe for more than a decade. His performance has been seen at many historic moments of China including APEC Summit and Shanghai Expo 2011.  Wang, who wears his hair long and is always in sunglasses, has been blind for almost 30 years. “For visually-abled people, it's natural to go to the center of the stage and then turn around and face the audience. But because we blind people can't see, we don't know which position to go on the stage, and we don't know how much to turn around is appropriate, ” he said. “But if we practice too much without correct guidance, our movements will be too deliberate.” In 1995, when Wang was 15 and had been blind for two years, one teacher at the special education school in his hometown Dalian led a group of students to a room full of musical instruments, where Wang befriended the saxophone. “I was standing in the big room, trying to recall those instruments I saw before losing my sight,” he said. “Suddenly, the saxophone jumped into my mind. I walked ahead and held it in my arms.”  …

Society

No increase in HK’s female legislators in 23 years: are women part of a reformed Legco?

In last year’s Legislative Council election, Cindy Chan Yuk-sim, 55, an estate surveyor and civil servant, cast a vote for the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency, one of 29 representing various industries of Hong Kong. Both candidates running for the single seat were men. “I wish there were more female candidates who can participate in the architectural constituency so that more female voices can be heard in the Legislative Council,” Chan said.  Though, in recent years, more women have taken up significant political roles, such as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and DAB Chairperson Starry Lee Wai-king, Hong Kong politics are heavily skewed in favor of men.   At the top levels of government, less than a fifth are women. And there has been little to no increase in this number for the last 23 years. Of the current 90 legislators, only 17 are women, about 19%. The percentage is the same for the Executive Council, the cabinet to the Chief Executive. Of the 32 current members, only six are women. “As most of the members in the Legislative Council and Executive Council are male, women opinions are relatively neglected, weakening their power in fighting for women rights in the council,” Joseph Chan, 62, a former professor from the Department of Politics and Public Administration of the University of Hong Kong, said. Entrenched gender stereotypes run deep in Hong Kong. Voters tend to favor men for political positions involving financial policy while women are preferred for social welfare and education, according to a survey by the Gender Research Centre at Chinese University's Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies. Joseph Chan said gender stereotypes may also cause male legislators to be judged on their accomplishments while women are judged on their appearance along with their achievements.   “Women should be …

Society

Singapore: Easing policy on COVID-19 prevention takes effect from today

Relaxed COVID-19 restrictions in Singapore kicked in today. Main changes include the easing of mandatory mask-wearing outdoors that had been in place for almost two years. Wearing masks outdoors is now optional for residents in Singapore, but people still need to follow the one-metre safe-distance rule and wear a mask indoors. “I will still wear a mask outdoors because of the fear of infection,” said Shi Xiaoli, 47, a manager in a decoration company who runs in the East Coast Park every day. “But it's still good that I can take off my mask when I run.” “Our fight against COVID-19 has reached a major turning point,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his speech delivered last Thursday. “We will be making a decisive move towards living with COVID-19.” Singapore has seen a steady decline in daily new cases. There were 4,848 new cases on March 27, the lowest since Feb. 3, according to the statistics from MOH (Ministry of Health Singapore). The week-on-week infection ratio, which refers to the ratio of community cases in the past week, compared with the week before, has been lower than 1.0 for nearly a month in Singapore, according to MOH. “I think it’s the right time,” said Associate Professor Alex Cook, Vice Dean of research at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. “Going for ‘freedom day’ this week would have been a huge surprise, but a substantial relaxation, with room for more steps once the wave ends, is sensible and ought to be safe.” The relaxed policy also includes larger group sizes for social gatherings from five to 10 people and a returning of 75% of employees who are working from home to the workplace. “I felt so excited, can't wait to gather with my friends,” …

Society

Virus or Starvation: Hong Kong Suffers Under Worst Pandemic Wave

Empty stores try to tempt customers with 20% discounts. Many more are closed, their shutters covered in thick dust. The previously bustling streets only see a handful of pedestrians, many of whom have sealed themselves off with surgical masks and even goggles. This was an early day in March in Hong Kong, in the third Covid-19. Hong Kong is suffering from the worst wave of pandemic with more than a million reported cases. Despite being one of the world's wealthiest cities, the Covid-19 fatality rate exceeds 0.5%, marking the highest death rate in the world right now. The city has shuttered bars, closed down late-night dining and schools, leaving hundreds of thousands without a job and little in terms of a safety net. According to Sze Lai-shan, deputy director of the Society for Community Organization, the situation is dire. "As most people can get vaccinated, the chances of dying from Covid are low, but starving to death is higher now," said Sze, whose group helps 40,000 people a day. Hong Kong's unemployment is surging amid the semi-lockdown, reaching 4.5% in February, the highest since September 2021. The government is trying to stem the disaster in the city, with Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po recently announcing a sixth round of the Anti-pandemic Fund of HK$27 billion to subsidize affected employers and individuals. Some HK$3billion is reserved for unemployment support. Eligible applicants must be unemployed for 30 consecutive days to get one-off HK$10,000 subsidies. Lam said to expand unemployment subsidy on Friday to benefit up to 1.3 million workers, covering three-quarters of workers earning HK$30,000 per month. Ronald Kong, 50, was recently temporarily laid off from his job at a barber shop, and had to make ends meet by giving haircuts in his apartment. While he's back at work now, he's deeply …

Society

Surviving smart prison

Immigration detainees concern groups complain of intrusive use of technology. What is a smart prison Hong Kong’s first smart prison, Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution (TTGCI) began operation in Sept 2021. Among the 160 inmates, 67 were immigration detainees. According to the Development of Smart Prison document presented to the Legislative Council by the Correctional Services Department in 2019. TTGCI operates a Passage Surveillance System. All prisoners have to wear a smart wristband. Officers can track the prisoners and are alerted if anyone strays from a designated route.  Inmates have to wear a tracker that looks like a black digital watch without a screen. It monitors heart rate, physical conditions and medical needs. It also alerts offers of any suicide or self-harm attempt. Why are the immigration detainees there?  Anna Tsui is a member of the CIC Detainees’ Rights Concern Group, an organisation that tries to improve immigration detainees’ living conditions and fight against unlawful detention inside the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC). “At least three of the immigration detainees inside TTGCI told me that the officers didn’t explain the functions and the purposes of wearing the black wristbands in advance. They asked the officers if they could remove the wristbands and the answer was ‘no’.”  In an email response to The Young Reporter, the Correctional Services Department said that “upon admission to TTGCI, information leaflets explaining the function of the smart wristband are provided to detainees. Detainees may ask on-duty staff if they have doubts.” As of  Dec. 2021, there were about 14,000 people who were refused entry into Hong Kong. These so-called non-refoulement claimants include illegal migrants or people who had overstayed their visas. Among them, 11,000 have had their claims rejected but 9,000 of them have applied for judicial reviews  and of those,  300 were detained …

Society

Justice for silent frontline cleaners

Carrying a blue cart of buckets and brooms, Luke Ching Chin-wai, 50, was supposed to clean the left-wing of Tai Wai MTR station. It is a two-storey building that includes four railways of the Tuen Ma and East Rail Lines, with stores on the ground floor.  In addition to 11 rubbish bins, Ching is also responsible for cleaning the advertising lightboxes, handrails and gates, as well as the train area, all within two hours.  Ching is drenched in sweat already before he’s even finished half of his duty, and he has yet to take a break.  “What a nuisance to be sweaty,” he said while cleaning the entrance gate. Cleaning workers like Ching have to maintain the hygiene in areas such as public toilets and refuse collection rooms. However, frontline cleaners are not always well equipped, especially during the pandemic. They risk their health to earn meagre salaries, and their rights and welfare are often barely protected.  But Ching is also a conceptual artist and a labour activist. He discovered the hidden welfare problems of cleaning workers working for the Mass Transit Railway after going undercover since November last year. Cleaners work under the MTR Corporation are outsourced to ISS Facilities Service Limited and Winson Cleaning Service Company Limited through tendering, according to the company’s website. Suppliers listed the business details on the tendering documents for MTRC to choose from, including the salary for the cleaners.  The number of face masks dispensed is equivalent to the number of working days, but it is far from enough. “One is needed before the break, a new one is needed after that, and should be changed after work,” explained Ching. A minimum of three face masks are needed for an eight-hour shift.  Hygiene work in an MTR station is not limited to wiping …