Xi critic barred from HK entry

Top News | ASSOCIATED PRESS 22 May 2019

A former Philippine Supreme Court justice who accused President Xi Jinping of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court said she was barred for hours yesterday from entering Hong Kong.

Conchita Carpio-Morales said she was stopped by immigration authorities and was held in a room at Chek Lap Kok for about four hours and ordered to take a flight back to Manila.

She had planned to take a vacation for five days in Hong Kong with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, who were all allowed entry.

Airport and immigration officials later told her "there was a mistake" and that she could proceed with her trip, but she and her family had already decided to return home because of the incident, she said.

"I have never been subjected to this kind of humiliation," Carpio-Morales said by telephone while waiting for her flight back to Manila. She said she and her family did not want to take the risk of being subjected to further scrutiny.

An immigration official who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a specific immigration case said Carpio-Morales had been admitted to Hong Kong.

Carpio-Morales, 77, is a respected former Supreme Court associate justice and head of the Ombudsman, a special anti-corruption agency.

She retired from government service last year. In March, she and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario took the bold step of filing a complaint against Xi and other Chinese officials over Beijing's assertive actions in the disputed South China Sea, which they say deprived thousands of fishermen of their livelihoods and destroyed the environment.

They accused Xi and other Chinese officials of turning seven disputed reefs into man-made islands, causing extensive environmental damage, and of blocking large numbers of fishermen, including about 320,000 Filipinos, from their fishing grounds.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua called the complaint a "fabrication."

Chinese officials also raised their concern over the complaint in a meeting with Philippine officials in Manila in April, saying the case is "affecting the prestige of our leader," a Philippine official said.

The legal offensive against China contrasts with President Rodrigo Duterte's rapprochement with Beijing since he took office in mid-2016 while often criticizing the security policies of the United States, a treaty ally.

Del Rosario said yesterday that he and Carpio-Morales filed the complaint "to be able to push back against the bullying and harassment that we have been encountering from our goliath of a neighbor" and Carpio-Morales's treatment in Hong Kong was "more of the same."

A presidential spokesman said the Duterte administration asked its diplomats to help Carpio-Morales and her family return to the country safely.

The Philippine deputy consul general in Hong Kong, Germinia Aguilar-Usudan, said that the Philippines will ask Hong Kong authorities about the incident.

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