Hong Kong gov't drops case vs OFW arrested near protest site

MANILA, Philippines – An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) arrested by Hong Kong police as he passed by the protest area in Mongkok last August is now in the clear, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Wednesday, November 27.

In a statement, the DFA said the decision was made during a court hearing at the Kowloon City Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, November 26.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs reports that the Hong Kong government has dropped the case of unlawful assembly filed against the Filipino arrested in August 2019," the DFA said on Wednesday.

What happened to the Filipino? The OFW, who worked at Hong Kong Disneyland, was making his way through the crowd of protesters in Mongkok at around 11 pm when the police ran after him.

A Facebook post made by one of his friends included a video where the OFW was seen distraught as police handcuffed and escorted him away.

Personnel of the Phillippine Consulate General to Hong Kong who visited the Filipino earlier said he categorically denied taking part in the protest, and maintained he was in the area to buy food and passed through side streets knowing protests were taking place in the main streets.

In a report by Hong Kong News, the lawyer of the OFW – who was identified as Jethro Pioquinto – said no protest materials were found when police searched him. Police only identified Pioquito's shoulder bag, phone, and Octopus card.

Meanwhile, the DFA earlier assured the public there was no need to evacuate Filipinos in Hong Kong "at this time" as they "remain safe" amid ongoing protests and violent dispersals in the harbour city.

The Philippine government has likewise reminded Filipinos living and traveling to Hong Kong to aadvised Filipinos to stay vigilant, and refrain from wearing black or white – colors associated with those involved in the protests.

The protests, which have taken place for over 5 months, are now widely considered as the biggest challenge to China's rule since the city's handover from Britain in 1997. (READ: Hong Kong: 5 months of unrest– Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.