Hong Kong rioters set fire on coronavirus affected house
Published: 10:46 PM, 27 January 2020
Hong Kong protesters have fuelled coronavirus chaos by lobbing petrol bombs at an empty housing complex in fury over it being designated as a quarantine zone.
Molotov cocktails were launched on Sunday night at the empty block which had been earmarked to become a temporary facility after the city confirmed six cases.
Among other ramped-up measures to reduce the risk of further infections, officials proposed using the building to house suspected victims, as well as front-line medical staff worried about infecting their families.
But dozens of angry local residents and protesters opposed to the measures set up roadblocks outside the complex before riot police moved in with tear gas.
In the evening, police said assailants threw petrol bombs at the buildings.
An AFP photographer on the scene saw fierce flames coming from the entrance of two apartment blocks before firefighters got the blaze under control.
Riot police were controlling the area and protesters had left, although some local residents were arguing with officers who used pepper spray.
The Centre for Health Protection said the plan to turn the housing estate into a quarantine zone would be suspended.
The agency has already turned a holiday park in an isolated rural area into a working quarantine facility. Two other holiday parks located away from major housing estates are also ready to be used as similar facilities.
But officials say they have struggled to find hotels and spare rooms for doctors and nurses working on the isolation wards where patients are being treated.
The virus outbreak comes at a time when Hong Kong is already boiling with widespread anti-government sentiment after seven months of often violent pro-democracy protests.
The city's pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam boasts record-low approval ratings while the police force is loathed in many neighbourhoods.
The frequency and ferocity of protests have died down in the last six weeks, but sporadic clashes still take place.
Police fired tear gas on Saturday night - the first day of the Lunar New Year - at small groups of masked protesters in Mongkok.
Nearly 300 people were killed by SARS in 2003, a tragedy that left a profound psychological impact on one of the most densely populated places on earth.
The city's ability to combat the crisis was hampered by moves in mainland China to cover up and play down the outbreak, leaving a lasting legacy of distrust among many Hong Kongers.
Animosity towards China has intensified in recent years as Beijing tightens political control over the semi-autonomous territory and as mainlanders compete with locals for jobs, property and goods in the pricey city.