The SCMP attempts to decode a CCP newspaper’s vague warning that Hong Kong’s failure to fight Covid could endanger national safety. Sample:
The Ta Kung Pao editorial said the government must “assess the situation carefully and brace for the worst while coming up with different proposals for good preparation”.
One theory offered by the SCMP‘s ‘pundits’ is that the pandemic detracts from grand projects like the Greater Bay Area. More likely, the aim of the piece is to emphasize that it is Hong Kong that threatens the Mainland’s health, not the other way round – and in any case, links with (or Covid approaches being used by) the rest of the planet do not enter any equation.
We’re all aware that Beijing is insisting that Hong Kong align with Mainland ‘zero-Covid’ policy, despite the resulting idiocies of putting people in quarantine hotels where they catch Covid, locking down entire housing estates, chasing hamsters, etc. But no-one is totally sure why. It depends how paranoid you feel.
Is it symbolism (Hong Kong must not appear or feel ‘different’ from the rest of the country)? Is it a calculated way to diminish Hong Kong’s international role and character (in line with Beijing’s insular tilt)? Is it also an excuse to tighten social controls by barring public assembly and introducing surveillance apps?
Probably all of the above, up to a point. But you have to wonder how much Beijing’s hands are simply tied by the fact that Mainland vaccines are far less effective than foreign ones. The CCP cannot openly admit this. So it has to leave its population effectively unvaccinated – and the nation cut off from the world – until it can find an acceptable face-saving way out.
Maybe the damage being done to Hong Kong is not the primary aim, but more inadvertent (even if, to the Leninist mind, proof that every cloud has a silver lining). To put it another way: if Beijing had had world-class vaccines available a year ago, would Hong Kong (and China as a whole) be far closer to reopening by now? Or would the CCP invent different reasons to keep us sealed off? In which case, wouldn’t it follow that the Hong Kong government/Beijing have an interest in keeping Hong Kong’s elderly semi-unvaccinated?
Which brings us back to the more sinister explanations. Carrie Lam is reframing ‘zero-Covid’ as ‘not absolute’, and expert KY Yuen says it was supposed to buy time for vaccinations. But the Hong Kong authorities’ main priority seems to be rooting out sedition, rather than pushing the old folks to get their jabs.
Some associated reading…
Comments from Siddarth Sridhar on the problem with ‘zero-Covid’ in Hong Kong.
An accessible update on Omicron and vaccines.
Samuel Bickett on Hong Kong’s sedition laws…
Sedition under Hong Kong law is an entirely different beast. It’s not enough to simply say the statute is broader than sedition under US law, because there is so little overlap in focus that it is effectively a different crime entirely.
HKFP on the government’s latest target:
signing up the elderly for vaccinations the HKJA.