Sunday, December 11, 2005

The big transnational corporations (TNCs) are the real troublemakers!

December 8, 2005
Hong Kong tightens security for WTO meeting

Bayan chair, two others detained by Hong Kong immigration Filipinos bound for Hong Kong to attend activities in the upcoming World Trade Organization meeting are being detained at the HK immigration as part of what militants believe are tightened security measures for the WTO meet.

Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr, said that those currently detained include Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, chair of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Elisa Lubi of Gabriela, and Norma BiƱas of the Kilusang Mayo Uno. The three were supposed to attend different fora and protest activities organized by RESIST, a network of anti-WTO groups and the International League of Peoples Struggle (ILPS). They were supposed to be hosted by the Hong Kong Peoples Alliance (HKPA).

Araullo was supposed to speak in a forum on trade and war organized by the ILPS and RESIST. “What they are doing to us is pure harassment. We have not broken any laws in Hong Kong or in the Philippines. We should not be treated this way. We are here to speak on the ill-effects of the WTO on poor countries like the Philippines. We are definitely not troublemakers,” Araullo said.

“The real troublemakers are the big transnational corporations and foreign government that have bled the third world dry,” she said. Reyes also said that an article in the Sunday Morning Post in Hong Kong revealed that there was a “blacklist” of 300 WTO protesters. The list, though never officially acknowledge, was said to have been supplied by the Interpol. Prominent figures present during the WTO protests in Seattle and the recent APEC protests in South Korea were said to be on the list.

World Trade Organization meetings have drawn wide protests in the past because of what is believed to be exploitative and oppressive trade practices of industrialized countries. Some protests were aimed at stopping previous rounds of negotiations that will further liberalize poorer economies.

So far Koreans and Filipinos have figured in incidents with the HK immigration. A peasant from the Via Campesina in Brazil was also detained before being allowed entry to HK.

“Our counterparts in Hong Kong have reported that immigration officials there have stepped up security preparations over the past few days. They have warned against alleged troublemakers attending WTO protest activities. Even domestic helpers have been warned by their employers from joining protest rallies against the WTO,” he said.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs must at least ask the Hong Kong immigration officials on the reason why Filipinos are being harassed and detained. If necessary, an appropriate protest must be filed,” Reyes said.

300 'troublemakers' on official blacklist

As many as 300 militant protesters due to fly in for this month's WTO ministerial meeting have been put on an official blacklist and will be denied entry into Hong Kong, security sources have revealed.

It is also understood that if they become obstructive at the airport, authorities will hold them in Victoria Prison, which is being set up as a detention centre.

The blacklist has never been officially acknowledged, but the sources say it contains the names of "key troublemakers", including many South Koreans.

It was worked out with the assistance of Interpol, the Immigration Department and security consultants, the Sunday Morning Post has been told.

It is also understood that pictures were taken of protesters at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum in Pusan, South Korea, last month and have been passed to the Hong Kong police.

Authorities intend to send the blacklisted activists home as soon as they land, said the sources. But if flights are unavailable or if there are other reasons preventing immediate deportation, they will be detained in Victoria Prison.

Inmates had already been cleared from the prison to make way for the protesters, they said. The government has said the prison could hold up to 700 protesters if trouble flares during the ministerial meeting, to be held from December 13 to 18 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

The government has consistently denied the existence of a blacklist and yesterday the Security Bureau refused to comment. Security chief Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong remained vague when asked about the subject on a radio programme.

"I would not say we have a list of people whom we would definitely refuse their entry." he said. "But of course, if, say, our intelligence from the US police tells us that this person had committed arson in Seattle, we will pay attention to this type of person."

Peter Yam Tat-wing, police director of operations, said the force was prepared for the worst. He added it would consider denying entry to visitors with a "trouble-making record".

Protesters' representatives yesterday accused the government of being evasive and discriminatory.

Rex Varona, executive director of the Asia Migrants Centre, said police had alerted at least two hotels that their rooms had been reserved by people connected with Southeast Asian activist groups.

One of the hotels had already told about 20 protesters it had cancelled their booking, he said. They were trying to persuade the other to keep their rooms.

Mr Varona said the police had checked the protesters' names and passport numbers with hotel staff. "This is discrimination. It is equivalent to harassment. They are a bunch of people who want to protest peacefully. When the government decided to hold the conference, they should have prepared to welcome different voices," he said.

He feared the situation would worsen, as the protesters already faced mounting difficulties in hiring vehicles and sound systems after the police had alerted companies of their identities.

Mabel Au Mei-po, of protest co-ordinator the Hong Kong People's Alliance (HKPA) on the WTO said: "I am very concerned. The officials have for months refused to tell us how they define high-risk militants and what measures they would adopt for this group of visitors."

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