03/04/2022, 12.03
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Covid-19 hits Hong Kong prisons, 1,000 infected, including three leading democrats

Among those infected were Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and Koo Sze-yiu, who has stage four cancer. Almost 60,000 cases a day in the city: one in seven prisoners is infected. Prison authorities: most are asymptomatic. Hong Kong Watch: 721 democratic figures are locked up in city prisons.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The historic democracy leaders Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho are among about 1,000 inmates held in city prisons infected with Covid-19. Among the positives is 75-year-old democracy activist Koo Sze-yiu, who has stage four cancer.

The health emergency in Hong Kong, hit by the fifth wave of the pandemic, seems to be out of control, even alarming Beijing. Yesterday, local authorities recorded almost 57,000 cases and 198 deaths. To curb the run on goods over the past week, two of the city's biggest supermarket chains have decided to ration food and medicine sales from today.

The infection rate in prisons is higher than in the population as a whole. There are currently about 7,350 people behind bars in Hong Kong, which means that one in seven prisoners is infected. In recent days, there have been 200 infections a day in prisons. In response to the problem, the executive has decided to turn some prisons into isolation centres.

Prison authorities say most of the infected inmates are asymptomatic and all are now in quarantine. Those without symptoms include Lee and Ho. The two democracy figures are serving sentences for taking part in unauthorised demonstrations. They are also awaiting trial on charges of violating the draconian national security law, which Beijing imposed in June 2020 to stifle the pro-democracy movement.

In the past, Lee and Ho led the disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which on 4 June each year organised the traditional vigil in memory of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. The Alliance, like Lee and Ho, is accused of inciting subversion under the security measure.

Due to his health condition, Koo was unable to appear at the court hearing yesterday for his possible release on bail. As reported by the Hong Kong Free Press, the National Security Police arrested him last month before an announced demonstration against the Beijing Winter Olympics. He had previously spent several periods in jail.

According to the UK-based humanitarian organisation Hong Kong Watch, 721 pro-democracy figures are imprisoned in Hong Kong.

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