Challenge against crackdown on pets

HONG KONG: Just weeks after half a million protesters forced the shelving of Beijing-backed anti-subversion legislation, hundreds of Hong Kongers hit the streets again yesterday – this time with dogs on leashes and parrots on their shoulders to challenge a crackdown on pets in public housing. 

“The two of us are in our 60s and 70s and Little Ben is our only comfort,'' said retired government worker Woo Gar-foo, with tears in his eyes and a pet rabbit in his arms. 

“If they take Little Ben away, take me away too,'' Woo said as he and his wife joined yesterday's march with 1,000 other pet owners. 

Hong Kong's government has been shaken by a series of recent protests, including one on July 1 that attracted a huge crowd opposed to anti-subversion legislation that critics denounced as a threat to freedom. 

Yesterday's turnout by pet owners showed “people power'' might be building in Hong Kong – a community once regarded as politically apathetic. 

“The most wonderful thing about Hong Kong now is that people feel empowered,'' said pet lover and psychotherapist Nikki Green.  

“There is no end now. People can voice their needs.'' 

The government has set an Aug 1 deadline against the keeping of most pets in state-owned apartments that are home to about half of the territory's 6.8 million people. 

The crackdown is in response to the recent SARS outbreak that killed more than 800 people worldwide, including 300 here.  

Scientists suspect that animals might have spread the virus to humans, although there has been no evidence it was linked to house pets. 

Households now will be allowed only a tank of fish and two birds each. Violators could be evicted. 

“I would rather sleep on the street with them than let officials take them away,'' said 27-year-old Ida Yue, who has three rabbits and two chinchillas. 

The restrictions on pets have been in place for decades, but until now have only been loosely enforced. – AP  

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