Rodrigo Duterte

Hong Kong protesters pushed to sidelines as Duterte prepares to meet local Filipino community

Organisers bemoan police actions to protect Duterte from protest groups during Hong Kong visit

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 5:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 8:50pm

Filipino migrant workers and members of local human rights groups will take to Hong Kong’s streets on Thursday to protest the three-day visit of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Duterte is also expected to receive a petition from student activists urging him to reconsider the recall of Jalilo Dela Torre, the country’s former labour attaché to the city.

Some 203,600 domestic workers from the Philippines work in Hong Kong and the petition, launched two weeks ago by Students Against Fees and Exploitation, has more than 1,000 signatures.

“We want to take this opportunity to raise awareness of the widespread human rights violations in the Philippines and also to touch on some issues that are relevant to Hong Kong, including the removal of the labour attaché,” Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, said.

Eight migrants’ groups in the city, along with local organisations, are expected to gather at 11am in an area near a bus terminal on Middle Road, in Tsim Sha Tsui.


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Villanueva said they had to change the location of the protest three times, because the police did not accept their proposals. Protesters had originally planned to demonstrate outside Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, where Duterte is gathering on Thursday with the Filipino community, before switching to a location on the corner between Middle Road and Salisbury Road – a site that faces the hotel where the president is staying.

“The security arrangements are insane,” Villanueva said. “It’s really exaggerated. It’s the people who should be protected from this mass murderer – he is killing thousands of people back home.” 

More than 4,000 people have been killed since Duterte launched a war on drugs nearly two years ago.

Villanueva is expecting only a few dozen people to join the demonstration, as most migrant workers will be at work.

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“We told the police that we probably would have fewer than 50 people. When that is the case, we just need to notify them. But this time, we had to apply for a permit,” said Villanueva, who has been a migrant activist and advocate in Hong Kong for more than 20 years. 

“We feel quite frustrated because we will have to hold the protest in a place where we won’t have much visibility.”

On Thursday afternoon, three students from the University of Hong Kong representing the group Students Against Fees and Exploitation, or SAFE, will join the meeting between Duterte and the Filipino community in the city. 

“We are expecting to hand in a letter and a petition to the president himself and the secretary of foreign affairs,” said Rachelle Lau, 21, a business and law student, and a member of the advocacy group.

The rare recall of Dela Torre, one of the most important officials at the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong, shocked the community. Many linked Manila’s move with the diplomat’s outspokenness against human traffickers and unscrupulous employment agencies.

SAFE launched a petition about two weeks ago calling on the Filipino government to reconsider the decision, gathering more than 1,000 signatures.

In the letter to Filipino officials, which was also undersigned by former lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing and lawyer Allan Bell, chair of the Hong Kong Domestic Worker Roundtable, the student group highlighted Dela Torre’s achievements in the city.

“In the strongest terms possible, we demand the immediate cancellation of Dela Torre’s recall. Let Dela Torre stay in Hong Kong and let him continue doing good for both the people of Hong Kong and the Philippines,” the letter, seen by the Post, read.