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One person died and nine others were injured in a fire at a building in Yau Ma Tei in the early hours of Saturday.
The Fire Department was called at about 5am to the Po Cheung Building on Reclamation Street after multiple reports of smoke and fire. Three fire trucks and four ambulances were sent to the scene.
About 50 people were evacuated.
Officials opened a temporary shelter at a nearby community centre.
In November, eight people died in a fire at a tenement block in Canton Road in nearby Jordan. It was the deadliest fire in Hong Kong for almost a decade.
The United States on Friday condemned Beijing's proposed reforms of Hong Kong's selection of lawmakers as a "direct attack" on the SAR's autonomy and demanded that Beijing reverse course.
The proposed measures "are a direct attack on Hong Kong's autonomy, Hong Kong's freedoms and the democratic processes," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
He said that the move violated Hong Kong's Basic Law that took effect in 1997 when Britain handed over the financial hub to China.
"If implemented, these measures would drastically undermine Hong Kong democratic institutions and they run directly counter to the Basic Law's clear acknowledgement that Hong Kong elections should progress towards universal suffrage," Price said.
"We call on the PRC to uphold its international obligations and commitments and to act consistently with Hong Kong's Basic Law," he said, referring to the People's Republic of China.
"The United States stands together with the people of Hong Kong... who are seeking nothing more than the universal rights... which they are owed." (AFP)
The Hospital Authority (HA) on Friday announced an investigation into the case of a chronically-ill patient who was found dead in a hospital corridor while waiting to be admitted.
The HA said the man, 63, was waiting to be admitted to Kwong Wah Hospital on the recommendation of a doctor in the outpatient clinic on February 26.
After arriving at the Accident and Emergency Department at around 3pm, he was assessed by medical staff, and was found to be stable and conscious.
The HA also said he had been accompanied by a family member as he was arranged to stay in the waiting area.
But when staff were ready to admit him to a medical ward at 10.30pm, there was no answer when they called out his name, made an announcement on the public address system, or called his mobile phone.
Another attempt to contact him through the PA system was made at 2am, but again there was no answer.
A staff member ultimately found him unresponsive and without a pulse on a stretcher in the waiting hall at 5am. They failed to resuscitate him and he was certified dead at 5.17am.
Kwong Wah Hospital said it had apologised to the patient's family members and added that A&E department staff had been reminded to enhance monitoring of patients awaiting admission.
The HA said an investigation panel will be formed to look into the incident, and the case has also been referred to the coroner.
The European Union warned China on Friday that it may take "additional steps" in response to Beijing's move to grant itself a veto over the selection of Hong Kong lawmakers.
Earlier on Friday, Beijing introduced legislation to allow the central government to vet all election candidates in Hong Kong, the latest move to eliminate dissent and ensure a ‘patriotic’ government in the city, which has had a degree of autonomy since reverting from British rule in 1997.
"The EU calls on the authorities in Beijing to carefully consider the political and economic implications of any decision to reform the electoral system of Hong Kong that would undermine fundamental freedoms, political pluralism and democratic principles," an EU spokesperson said.
Brussels has previously decided to limit exports of equipment that could be used for surveillance in Hong Kong and EU foreign ministers have discussed the possibility of broader sanctions if the situation worsens.
"As agreed by EU foreign ministers, the EU stands ready to take additional steps in response to any further serious deterioration of political freedoms and human rights in Hong Kong, which would be against China's domestic and international obligations," the spokesperson said.
"If enacted, such reform would have potentially far-reaching negative consequences for democratic principles and democratically elected-representatives in Hong Kong," the EU statement said.
The last Hong Kong governor, Chris Patten, also issued a harshly-worded statement slamming the planned reform.
“China's communist parliament has taken the biggest step so far to obliterate Hong Kong's freedoms and aspirations for greater democracy under the rule of law,” he said.
He said Beijing has effectively decided that allegiance to the Communist Party is a prerequisite for patriotism.
“This completely destroys the pledge of ‘One Country, Two Systems. The Chinese Communist Party has shown the world once again that it cannot be trusted. It is a continuing and brutal danger to all who believe in free and open societies.” (AFP, RTHK)
Police have arrested a dozen people and frozen assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, as part of an investigation by the force and the Securities and Futures Commission into alleged stock manipulation.
The suspects are accused of running a "ramp and dump" scam where certain stocks are hyped up and then recommended to people via messaging apps, before the fraudsters suddenly sell their own holdings, leaving other investors out of pocket.
Officials said the suspects, aged between 23 and 65, were picked up after a series of raids on Thursday at homes in Central, Wan Chai and The Peak, as well as at brokerages on Hong Kong Island.
The suspects were being held on suspicion of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.
Thomas Atkinson, the SFC's enforcement chief, explained at a press conference how victims are duped into investing.
"These scams involve fraudsters setting up different investment groups on social media platforms and claiming to offer investment tips or inside information to induce unwary investors to join the groups," he said.
"Sometimes they call themselves investment masters or teachers, and some may even impersonate genuine or well-known market commentators by posting their photos on the chat groups."
Atkinson added that the alleged syndicate had been very active in the past year, transferring funds back and forth across the border to try to hide the source of the money.
The commission's CEO Ashley Alder said fraudsters often pick stocks that attract little investor interest.
"All these schemes have similar characteristics, typically the vehicles used by these fraudsters are small listed companies, in traditional industries, with a low share price coupled with very thin trading. These companies become a target for fraud because their shares are easier to corner and share prices can be manipulated with relatively small amounts of cash," he said.
Officials said it was difficult to estimate how many victims there are, as some may be too embarrassed to come forward.
The SFC said that in all, it had frozen assets worth HK$860 million in the operation, while the police said they had seized cash and other valuables worth HK$900 million.
The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) has denied receiving funding from overseas organisations after a report said the government may outlaw the group on national security grounds.
There have been claims that the front – which is best known for organising the annual July First rally and other protests – had received funding from the US National Endowment for Democracy to organise anti-extradition demonstrations, which began in June 2019.
A report by Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao quoted sources as saying that the Hong Kong government could ban the group shortly if the allegations of foreign funding were proven true.
Sources quoted by the newspaper also alleged that the CHRF has never registered with the government and might have breached the Societies Ordinance. The report said the front’s convenors could be jailed for up to three months if found guilty.
In a statement, the front's convenor, Figo Chan, said its funding came solely from donations from the public during marches and assemblies.
He stressed the group has never received funding from foreign governments or organisations, including the National Endowment for Democracy.
“Regarding the news that the CHRF may be disbanded by the government, our take is that once this regime targets a person or organisation to condemn, it always manages to find an excuse to do so,” Chan said.
The group urged people to “recognise and acknowledge the facts” and to do their best during what it calls a “difficult time of incessant political suppression”.
Four of the 47 pro-democracy figures facing subversion charges under the national security law were released from custody on Friday, after prosecutors dropped an appeal against the decision to grant them bail.
Clarisse Yeung, Lawrence Lau, Hendrick Lui and Mike Lam were taken to West Kowloon Magistrates' Court in the afternoon to complete the bail proceedings.
The conditions, set on Thursday, include a ban on doing or saying anything that harms national security, obeying a curfew, reporting to police several times a week, surrendering travel documents and avoiding any contact with foreign officials.
The cash bail amounts they were told to pay range from HK$80,000 to HK$1 million. Their case will next be heard in court on May 31.
In all, 15 of the 47 pro-democracy activists and politicians were granted bail on Thursday evening after a marathon hearing, while the other 31 defendants were denied bail.
However, they all initially remained in custody after prosecutors appealed against the bail decision.
The prosecution's appeal regarding the other 11 defendants the magistrate decided could have bail is expected to be heard on Saturday.
Under the national security law, there is no presumption of bail for suspected non-violent offences.
In regards to the 31 defendants denied bail, Chief Magistrate Victor So said he did not have sufficient grounds to believe they wouldn’t "continue" to endanger national security.
The group, which held primary polls to choose Legco election candidates last year, are accused of plotting to overthrow the SAR government.
Last updated: 2021-03-05 HKT 18:39
Pro-Beijing lawmakers on Friday voiced unanimously support for Beijing’s planned changes to Hong Kong's electoral system, saying they are much needed to ensure the territory's “long-term stability and prosperity”.
In a statement, Legco president Andrew Leung said the changes are "understandable and appropriate", as they can help restore normalcy to the SAR by establishing a "peaceful and rational Legco" and minimising any unnecessary disputes.
He added that he believes people with different opinions can continue to serve in the council following the changes, as the central government has been “very understanding” of the political diversity in Hong Kong.
Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker Priscilla Leung echoed these views, saying the amendments are required to correct a "problematic system", adding they “aren’t targeted at a particular political camp”.
“People have to perform. People have to have the talent and meet the required standard, not just by shouting out political slogans and holding out political colours... You have to look at the substance and their performance… the game is new for everyone, it’s not particularly designed for a camp. Actually, it’s designed for the future of Hong Kong,” she said.
The pro-government Liberal Party and the DAB also hailed the proposed changes, saying they’re much needed to “plug loopholes" in the existing election system.
“Otherwise, if we let this situation to continue, finally that would ruin the entire city. Views opposing government policies are always welcome; Hong Kong is a city with diverse views. But what we want to point out is if people are advocating Hong Kong independence, or posing serious threats to national security, that is not allowed. So I think it’s time to draw the red line. People who call it regression … that’s totally just trying to smear the electoral reform,” DAB councillor Holden Chow said.
However, Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai – one of only two legislators from outside the pro-establishment camp who have not resigned or been expelled – said he believes the pro-democracy camp will very much be wiped out from Legco in future.
“It seems that the system is shifting from direct democratic process of election towards a kind of indirect and Chinese-style election. In general, the number of Legco members in the council may be more, then the authorities, they would say that they have greater degree of representativeness of the society. But I think we need more open procedures in the election, rather than the number only,” he said.
A DAB district councillor said on Friday that it makes sense that she and her colleagues are to be stripped of their role in helping to select the chief executive in future, saying they should focus on livelihood issues instead.
Sources say Beijing's electoral reforms for Hong Kong will see all 117 district councillors removed from the election committee, even as it is expanded from 1,200 to 1,500 members.
Under Beijing's overhaul of the SAR's electoral system, the election committee is to take on the additional roles of participating in the nomination of all Legco candidates, and picking some of the council's members itself.
Asked about the changes, Kwai Tsing district councillor Jody Kwok said district councils are supposed to concentrate on livelihood and local matters, but pan-democrats have been "acting absurdly" by focusing on politics since their landslide win in the 2019 elections.
"The comments from our citizens and residents mostly is they care about their livelihoods, the economy and stability of Hong Kong. So it's not healthy for all of us or the whole atmosphere of Hong Kong to focus on the politics," she said.
"We have to divide our roles. Like district councillors they have to focus on the district matters, and for the legislative councillors, they may be focused on the bills, on the development of the political issues or something like that. But we have to clearly identify different roles in different parts of the society," she said.
But Kwok's colleague in Kwai Tsing District Council, pro-democracy member Dennis Cheung, said the planned changes to the electoral system are a regression, and the situation will go back to how it was before the handover.
He said this is clearly a reaction to the pro-democracy camp's wins in the 2019 polls.
"They are now removing our powers from the establishment to make sure we have no influence towards the higher-level policies the government take... This is the total control from the central government, and our people of Hong Kong will have no say to our representatives," he said.
Cheung said he fears that government policies will become "even more out of touch with the community" in future.
The district councillor said the pro-democracy camp will have a very hard time from now on, as they no longer have the resources or power to push for changes.
But he said the government will not have it easy either.
"The representation of the CE will even be lower than what we have today... I think the government will also have to pay the price. Whenever they make some policy, they will have no support from the Hong Kong people. It will be a very [bad] thing for Hong Kong," he said.
The Centre for Health Protection on Friday reported 11 new coronavirus cases, eight of them local.
Half of the local cases have no clear source.
One of them is a university student who lives in Sau Mau Ping. He has not attended any face-to-face classes recently.
A 47-year-old clerk of the Labour Department who works at Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices has also caught the virus. He last went to work on Thursday.
The government says service counters on the floor where the man worked would be closed until further notice.
A 48-year-old clerk who worked at an office building in Central has also come down with the disease. His colleagues have been put under quarantine.
A 37-year-old woman who works part-time as a foreign domestic helper is the other unlinked case.