After hinting that compulsory universal Covid testing is not going to happen, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam again seems to reverse course, suggesting that it might indeed still go ahead. This seems to be a way to pacify pro-government lawmakers who – at officials’ request – dutifully supported the plan, only to be left looking stupid when the government U-turned and announced an easing of anti-Covid measures on Monday.
Not that the authorities’ policies are looking much more coherent. The CE is now saying the moving of school summer holidays to March is to reduce infections, though she first presented the plan as a way to free up space for mass-testing. Enforcement squads are still locking down buildings in pursuit of Covid cases – when maybe half the population has now been infected. Carrie actually seems proud that quarantine regulations for arrivals and airline suspensions are still making travel near-impossible, when other countries are now waving vaccinated passengers through. And she is openly rejecting expert advice on ‘transitioning to endemicity’ on the grounds that it’s based merely on academic models. Not least, we are told opening up cross-border travel must still come before all else.
The local leadership seems to be trapped between Chinese government ideologues insisting that the CCP be seen to vanquish the virus and Mainland experts urging a de-facto abandonment of the hopeless ‘zero-Covid’ goal. But when we look back at this one day, the tragedy of Hong Kong’s post-2019 patriots-only Nat-Sec regime will be very stark. The further the city moves away from open(-ish) government exposed to opposition voices and a critical press and towards a top-down Leninist system of control, the worse the quality of administration gets.
Instead, we get non-stop struggles against mysterious hostile forces. US lawyer Samuel Bickett is unceremoniously kicked out of Hong Kong to join the ranks of foreigners colluding with each other (his statement). And the Nat-Sec Police valiantly/earnestly/without a shred of self-effacing irony uncover a plot by a 60-ish couple to found a ‘Darth Vadar’ army of ‘black knights’ (‘radicalized by fake news’) to launch a revolution to overthrow the CCP with crossbows, a stockpile of foreign currency, and seditious chatter on social media. A Nat-Sec judge refuses the pair bail.
Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away, Financial Secretary Paul Chan plans to invite international businessmen to the Rugby Sevens to witness Hong Kong’s vibrancy. Wonderfully fawning Standard editorial here.