Hong Konger ‘missing’ after crossing China bridge checkpoint

The man was traveling by bus on Friday afternoon along the bridge-and-tunnel network linking Hong Kong, Macau and mainland city Zhuhai. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 December 2019

Hong Konger ‘missing’ after crossing China bridge checkpoint

  • The man texted his son saying he was being detained
  • Mainland police set up a checkpoint in Macau ahead of President Xi visit

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s immigration department said Sunday they have received reports a man went missing on a cross-border mega bridge to the gambling hub of Macau that currently hosts a Chinese mainland police checkpoint.
The disappearance first emerged on Saturday when the man’s son told local media his father had texted to say he was being detained while passing through an artificial island manned by Chinese police on his way to the semi-autonomous city of Macau.
The man was traveling by bus on Friday afternoon along the bridge-and-tunnel network linking Hong Kong, Macau and mainland city Zhuhai, his son said.
“His last message said ‘I got arrested’,” the son told Cable News, speaking anonymously.
The artificial island in the middle of the Pearl River Delta lies in Chinese mainland waters.
It does not normally host a checkpoint. But mainland police set one up there last week with X-ray machines and facial-recognition checks ahead of an upcoming visit to Macau by President Xi Jinping.
Hong Kong’s immigration department told AFP it had “received a request for help” regarding a resident “who was suspected to have gone missing... when traveling to Macau via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai Macau Bridge.”
The spokesman added that the department was reaching out to the city’s trade office in the Chinese province of Guangdong, which borders Macau.
Security is being ramped up in Macau ahead of Xi’s visit to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its handover from Portugal to China on Friday.
Last week Guangdong’s public security department said it was setting up a checkpoint on the artificial island to “create a favorable social environment” for the anniversary celebrations.
Hong Kong’s security bureau declined to comment on whether it was aware of the new checkpoint on the bridge.
AFP reporters passed through the checkpoint last Wednesday. It was manned by dozens of heavily armed SWAT officers, and bus passengers had their luggage, faces and identity documents screened.
The Macau celebrations come as Hong Kong has been convulsed by six months of huge and often violent pro-democracy protests as the city chafes under Beijing’s rule.
The protests were initially sparked by a now-abandoned plan to allow extraditions to the mainland where the courts are opaque and controlled by the Communist Party.
The 2015 disappearance into mainland custody of five booksellers who published salacious tomes about China’s leaders also sparked outrage.
The bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai is an engineering marvel but some have criticized the undeclared costs which ran into the tens of billions.
A newly opened high-speed rail link to the mainland has also proved controversial because part of the terminus in the heart of Hong Kong’s Kowloon district is governed by mainland Chinese law.


Philippines lowers volcano alert, thousands can return home

Updated 26 January 2020

Philippines lowers volcano alert, thousands can return home

  • The nation’s seismological agency said steadily shrinking ash and gas emissions were signs of “decreased tendency toward hazardous explosive eruption”
  • The immediate impact of the reduced warning was provincial authorities lifting the evacuation order for nearly all the towns that ring the volcano

MANILA: A major explosion of the Philippines’ restive Taal volcano no longer appears imminent, authorities said Sunday as they partially lifted a mass evacuation order but warned residents should still remain ready to flee.
Warning signs like earthquakes have been steadily waning since Taal burst to life two weeks ago, prompting at least 135,000 people into evacuation centers over fears of a massive eruption.
The nation’s seismological agency said steadily shrinking ash and gas emissions were signs of “decreased tendency toward hazardous explosive eruption,” leading them to drop the alert by a notch.
The immediate impact of the reduced warning was provincial authorities lifting the evacuation order for nearly all the towns that ring the volcano, a tourist attraction that sits in the middle of a lake.
“Residents of all towns under lockdown except Agoncillo and Laurel now have the option to return,” local governor Hermilando Mandanas told a press conference.
“There’s a possibility that the volcano may still erupt and we should still be ready to evacuate in one hour.”
The volcano shot ash 15 kilometers (nine miles) high and spewed lava in the January 12 eruption, which crushed scores of homes and killed livestock as well as crops.
However, seismologists warned the volcano could imminently unleash a much bigger eruption, posing a deadly risk to anyone in a 14-kilometer radius “danger zone.”
Taal, located just 60 kilometers from the capital Manila, is one of the most active volcanoes in a country where eruptions and earthquakes are a dangerous part of life.
Its last eruption was in 1977, but it has a long history of activity. In 1965, a Taal eruption killed some 200 people.
The most powerful volcanic explosion in the Philippines in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people.

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