Hong Kongers Riot Over Plans To Use Public Housing As Coronavirus Quarantine

As if Hong Kongers didn't have enough of a reason to riot already...

Dozens of masked demonstrators started fires and built barricades, recalling some of the worst unrest of the pro-democracy movement protests last summer. In addition to barricading a road in Fanling district, protesters also scattered trash in the streets and hurled petrol bombs at the lobbies of buildings, Bloomberg reports.

Hong Kong has confirmed six cases of the Wuhan virus already, and the government had announced plans to block travel into Hong Kong from quarantined city.

The riots come after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam upgraded the government’s response against the coronavirus to the highest level on Saturday, and warned that the outbreak could deepen Hong Kong's already punishing recession (which of course was caused by the pro-democracy movement and the months of unrest which have only recently begun to die down).

Some demonstrators were motivated by the fact that the quarantine would be disquietingly close to their homes. Others, because they didn't want approved applicants to lose their new homes. 

Hong Kong's government said it had at least three quarantine facilities lined up, and added that it was preparing a fourth.

Initially, the city denied that it was planning to use the site as a quarantine, but reporters showed that some of the apartments had already been furnished, apparently by the government.

In a statement, the government said it would cease any and all plans to use the housing in Fai Ming Estate as a quarantine, though this clearly wasn't enough to calm the demonstrators.

"The government acknowledges and understands that there is concern among some residents in the North District of the requisition of Fai Ming Estate," it said in a statement late Sunday. "Representatives of relevant government departments will attend North District Council meeting this Wednesday to explain and discuss on the issue. Meanwhile, the government will cease the related preparation work in Fai Ming Estate."

It's interesting that HKers would riot over something so critical to the public welfare. Ever since SARS swept through HK in 2003, killing 300 people, the city has been on high alert for communicable disease, which can spread like wildfire through the densely populated city. Police turned out on Saturday to fire tear gas into a crowd of demonstrators who gathered at the shopping hub in Mong Kok, the site of a violent 2016 protest deemed "the Fishball Revolution." A rally set for Sunday was cancelled because of fears about the virus.

First the protests and now this? Maybe 2020 just isn't Hong Kong's year (not that 2019 was).