By Leslie Ann Aquino and AFP
Recruiters of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to Hong Kong were advised on Sunday to conduct a close monitoring of their deployed workers as tens of thousands of Hong Kong democracy activists gathered Sunday for a major rally to show the city’s leaders their protest movement still attracts wide public support despite mounting violence and increasingly stark warnings from Beijing.
Member agencies of the Society of Hong Kong Recruiters of the Philippines (SHARP) were advised by Alfredo Palmiery, SHARP president, to gather the current addresses, contact numbers, email addresses, Facebook accounts, Messenger, and all other forms of communication of their deployed workers.
Palmiery said the information to be gathered should be submitted to their secretary general for ready transmittal to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) or Hong Kong Philippine Overseas Labor Office in case of any mandatory evacuation or repatriation.
SHARP said the information will be very useful in the event that OFWs need to be repatriated for their re-deployment to other countries with the member associations of the Coalition of Licensed Agencies Deploying Services (CLAD), the only umbrella organization recognized by the Department of Labor and Employment and POEA with a membership of 400 licensed agencies deploying HSWs.
Domestic helpers in Hong Kong were also advised to stay away from rallies or demonstrations, and to avoid wearing black or white clothing.
They were also asked to avoid unnecessary errands near the demonstration sites, and instruct counterpart agencies to pick up arriving workers at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) and also to provide arriving workers with Hong Kong sim cards for their use upon arrival.
Recruitment consultant and migration expert Emmanuel Geslani believes that OFWs in Hong Kong will be “reluctant” to leave their jobs or households unless their own employers decide to pack up and leave the SAR (Special Administrative Region).
He is also convinced that any attempt to evacuate Filipinos will be a monumental task even for local air carriers and even more for PAF C-130 cargo planes.
Geslani said this is because Hong Kong is host not only to 250,000 Household Service Workers (HSWs) but also to several thousand skilled workers in banks, financial institutions, and hotels.
Major anti-government rally
HONG KONG – Ten weeks of demonstrations have plunged the financial hub into crisis with images of masked black-clad protesters engulfed by tear gas during street battles with riot police stunning a city once renowned for its stability.
Communist-ruled mainland China has taken an increasingly hardline tone towards the protesters, decrying the ”terrorist-like” actions of a violent hardcore minority among the demonstrators.
Despite the near-nightly clashes with police, the movement has won few concessions from Beijing or the city’s unelected leadership.
On Tuesday, protesters blocked passengers from boarding flights at the city’s airport and later assaulted two men they accused of being Chinese spies.
The images damaged a campaign that until then had largely targeted the police or government institutions, and prompted an apology from some of the protest groups.
Sunday’s rally at the city’s Victoria Park is an attempt to wrestle the narrative of the protest back.
It is a ”rational, non-violent” demonstration, according to organizers the Civil Human Rights Front, the driving force behind record-breaking rallies in June and July that saw hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets.
Police have given permission for the rally to go ahead but banned a proposed march.
Previous bans on marches have been ignored by protesters, leading to clashes with riot police.
”We expect a huge number of participants… we hope to show to the world Hong Kong people can be totally peaceful,” Bonnie Leung, a spokeswoman for the Civil Human Rights Front told reporters.
”If Beijing and Hong Kong’s tactic is to wait for our movement to die, they are wrong… we will soldier on.”
China’s propaganda apparatus has seized on the weeks of violence, with state media churning out a deluge of damning articles, pictures and videos.
State media also ran images of military personnel and armored personnel carriers across the border in Shenzhen, prompting the United States to warn Beijing against sending in troops.
Analysts say any intervention by Chinese security forces would be a reputational and economic disaster for China.
During smaller protest marches on Saturday — which ended without large-scale clashes — many protesters chanted ”See you in Victoria Park!” as they left the streets.
Tens of thousands of protesters massed in the park as the rally started on Sunday afternoon, while many others thronged the nearby streets in a show of defiance expected to stretch into the evening.
”I hope more people can make a step forward,” protester Ray Cheung, 30, told AFP.
”We have tried many times with peaceful approaches… I really hope the government can listen to us.”
Earlier, the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong advised Filipinos with no urgent business or purpose to avoid using the HK International Airport as a destination or stopover as the situation in the former Crown Colony continues to be unpredictable due to the series of protests.
The Philippine Consulate has received reports of upcoming protests in Hong Kong on the following dates and places: August 19 – “Clean up MTR carriages” and August 25 – Kwai Tiang Theatre, Kwai Chung, to Tsuen Wan Park.
In view of the scheduled protests, Filipinos are asked to avoid these areas and refrain from wearing clothing and/or carrying anything that could mistakenly identify them as participants to the protest actions.
Filipino travelers departing from Hong Kong are requested to contact their respective airlines at least five hours before their scheduled flights to check if their flights will push through. (With Roy C. Mabasa)