(9 Oct 2019) With Hong Kong’s summer of protests now stretching into the fall and clashes becoming increasingly ferocious, medical professionals have quietly banded together to form the Hidden Clinic and other networks to secretly treat the injuries of many young demonstrators who fear arrest if they go to government hospitals.
The Hidden Clinic says it has clandestinely treated 300-400 protesters with an array of injuries: broken and dislocated bones, gaping wounds and exposure to tear gas so prolonged that they were coughing up blood.
It also says the severity of the injuries has increased sharply in the past week, with hard-core protesters and police increasingly tough on each other.
The full scope of the clandestine efforts to treat protesters isn’t clear, because both the injured and the medics want to protect themselves in the atmosphere of deep distrust that has put Hong Kong on edge.
The Associated Press spoke to a trainee doctor who wouldn’t give her full name and asked to be identified only as Wong for fear she would damage her career.
She said her supervisor at a major public hospital doesn’t know of her involvement with Hidden Clinic.
After her regular shifts, she spends her nights dealing with a steady stream of injured protesters, giving them quick, initial diagnoses via text message and photo, and dispensing advice. She then reaches out to the network’s behind-the-scenes doctors, arranging more extensive consultations and treatment — and even help with any costs.
When the protests began, Wong said she used her medical skills on the front lines. She helped assemble Hidden Clinic at the end of July because “I realized the injuries are getting more severe,” she said.
With many distrustful of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government, and by extension its hospitals, “patients would rather endure the pain and not get arrested,” she said.
This behind-the-scenes doctoring, outside of government hospitals, suggests that the official toll of 1,235 injured protesters treated in public hospitals since June 9 significantly undercounts both the number and full extent of those hurt in the more than 400 demonstrations tallied by the government.
Lam says the casualty count includes injuries to more than 300 police officers.
The government tally, compiled by the Hospital Authority, only counts patients who visited 18 public Accident and Emergency departments in the territory of 7.5 million people, not those treated privately.
The protests were triggered in June by a now-abandoned measure that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China.
They’ve flared into sustained fury against Lam’s government, testing commitments from Communist leaders in Beijing not to interfere in the internal affairs of Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous hub for international trade and finance that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork
You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/youtube/b042049e00b248028731b9fc95111747