Hong-Kong police block protective gear give-away

The Construction Site Workers General Union (the Union) set up a street counter to distribute free protective gears against the Coronavirus pandemic on 1 May but was interrupted by the police.

The participants were prosecuted with a fine of 2000 HDK (£200) according to regulations to maintain social distancing. To protest against what it called “selective law enforcement”, the Union organised a similar event at the Hoi Fu Bridge outside the Hong Kong central government complex at noon on 6 May.

Participants are wearing their working outfit at the event to show that they represent the Union – Photograph by Xinyi Huang

What happened on 1 May?

The Union gave out passers-by free facial masks and hand sanitiser at Kwai Fong, Sham Shui Po and Kwun Tong on 1 May. When the volunteers were discharging these materials from cars, some police officers stopped them and checked their ID documents. All three counters were warned that such gathering was against regulations of social distancing. Later, the police blocked the counters with cable ties.

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What happened this time?

Before the street counter was set up, there were already police officers in plain-clothes standing around. When the event started at 11am, organisers were given a written warning of “prohibition of social gathering”. The facial masks and hand sanitisers the Union distributed have phrases such as “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time” on it, a popular slogan during last year’s protests. There was also a loudspeaker repeating the Union’s demand for workers’ right and protest-related chanting. When the event finished at 2pm, all participants were prosecuted with a fine of $2000 (£200).

Passers-by getting free protective gears – Photograph by Xinyi Huang
On the bottles of hand sanitizer, it writes “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our time” – Photograph by Xinyi Huang

Is the street counter illegal?

According to the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation (Cap. 599G), group gathering held for handling supplies or items, that are conducive to the prevention and control of the disease, is exempted from prosecution. The Union, therefore, claimed that their street counters were “absolutely legal”. However, the police argued that slogans on these supplies and what the loudspeaker was playing made the event an illegal social gathering.

The Union further argued that even if the street counters were illegal, the police were not following the principle of equality before law because previously, another pro-Beijing party held a similar event at Sham Shui Po without any interference from the police.

The Regulation does not specify whether there can be other elements with the supplies, so the argument between the two parties remains a grey area.

Why the police?

Hong Kong police have been blamed by local activists for their misconduct during last year’s protests. Tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets were fired by the police to disperse protesters. There were also allegations of arbitrary arrests, brutal beatings and torture in police detention.

Participants’ Voice

Organiser of this event, V, said he was resentful of what the police did.

V said his code name stands for victory: victory of Hong Kong people in liberating the city. Photograph by Xinyi Huang

Kelvin Chan, a volunteer at the event, is a construction worker at West Kowloon and joined the Union last September. He also participated in other street counter events last year during the protests.

Kevin Chan was giving out leaflets to passers-by. Photograph by Xinyi Huang

(image by: Xinyi Huang)

by Xinyi Huang

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