Filipinos join HK protests

Filipinos join HK protests

HONG KONG - It's a "teaching moment."

Armed with cameras and sporting yellow ribbons, a group of Filipinos who are permanent residents of Hong Kong on Wednesday joined the "Umbrella Revolution," which has paralysed busiest parts of the city since Saturday.

They also brought along their children.

"We brought along our kids because this is a teaching opportunity for them to learn that, 'You know, your freedom, you have to fight for it," said Mang Ben, who has lived in Hong Kong for 25 years.

He declined to give his real name for security purposes.

"We brought them so that they will also be aware of what's going on. It's not just for fun. It's also a teaching moment for them," Mang Ben said.

"Hong Kong has given us so much economic benefits, for Filipinos particularly. [W]e want to give back," he added. Democratic elections

For the last four days, Hong Kong has been swept by student-led protests demanding that China allow the city fully democratic elections.

The number of protesters has increased after police deployed tear gas on Sunday in an attempt to disperse protesters who had gathered in front of government offices in Admiralty district.

Since then, however, police have largely stayed behind barricades, just watching as the protesters sit on the streets, blocking traffic and shutting down offices and stores.

"My heart goes out to the students," Mang Ben said, noting how organised and courteous the protesters were.

"They're very well organised. We interviewed some students and they know the issues. That is surprising. They have a good grasp of the issues, what's at stake. That's why we were encouraged," he added.

There are around 185,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong, with 15,000 having permanent resident status.

Around 165,000 work in the city as domestic helpers.

But according to the latest figures from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, there are more than 195,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong.

The figure includes more than 176,000 temporary workers who are expected to return home when their contracts end and 13,000 immigrants whose stay in Hong Kong does not depend on employment.

Around 5,000 Filipinos are classified as irregular or not properly documented.

Consulate's warning

While some Filipino permanent residents here have joined the protests, Philippine Consul General Bernardita Catalla emphatically urged Filipinos to avoid the protest areas.

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