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Thursday, August 06, 2020, 00:30
Partnership puts the city back on right track
By Zhou Bajun
Thursday, August 06, 2020, 00:30 By Zhou Bajun

The third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a tremendous public-health crisis since early July. In view of the dire situation, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and the Executive Council have decided to postpone the Legislative Council election originally scheduled for Sept 6 by invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance. The decision immediately prompted the United States and United Kingdom governments to cry foul, once again baring their hypocritical instinct for all to see. Didn’t US President Donald Trump cite the same public-health concern when he mentioned recently the possibility of postponing the US presidential election? As for the UK government, it called off local council elections until May next year, when confirmed COVID-19 cases were in the hundreds. Why are Washington and London so mad about Hong Kong making the same decision as they did or suggested?

No matter what others say about its decisions, Hong Kong will follow the chosen path with the motherland and take good care of its own business. The COVID-19 pandemic is a global public-health crisis and can be defeated only with vaccination and proven medicine. From the local perspective, it has always been the classic wrestle between anti-mainland forces and the patriotic groups in Hong Kong.

In June last year, the anti-mainland forces used the SAR government’s proposed extradition-law amendments as an excuse to launch a separatist movement that became known as the “black revolution” characterized by violence and criminal vandalism. It was finally ended after the National Security Law came into effect on June 30 and Hong Kong is now righting the wrongs, in a manner of speaking. The newly established Department for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Police Force has arrested four separatists and put six others who have fled overseas on its wanted list. Such moves are aimed at fixing some of Hong Kong’s deep-rooted problems with political and judicial means. Meanwhile, in response to a request by the SAR government, the central authorities have dispatched coronavirus testing specialists to Hong Kong to help with increased demand and even citywide screening, in addition to converting an exhibition hall at the AsiaWorld-Expo into a huge temporary hospital. This measure is meant to help the SAR contain the pandemic as soon as possible.

The strong resurgence of COVID-19 since July has surprised many. After all, Hong Kong is not adequately prepared, equipped or experienced to handle a protracted pandemic.

To right wrongs, Hong Kong must first ensure “one country” is the prerequisite and basis of “two systems” both in concept and system arrangement. Postponing the LegCo election by a year will facilitate the fight to contain the pandemic, which needs and is now receiving help from the motherland

Experience in combating the pandemic on the mainland shows the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is complete lockdown as soon as an outbreak is confirmed. The next step in effectively containing it is extensive nucleic acid testing in communities with confirmed infections. In these two steps, Wuhan provides an outstanding testament; while Beijing sets an excellent example in speedily containing a sudden outbreak of imported cases with immediate testing of possible contacts by closely tracking and monitoring people who have been to the venues where the pathogen was found. Compared with countries worldwide, the Chinese mainland’s success in its anti-epidemic endeavor can be attributed to its unique system and the leadership of the central government.

Hong Kong is a capitalist society where more than 98 percent of local businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises. The SAR government does not have the necessary system or mechanism to mobilize local society in maintaining close tracing and monitoring of possible contacts. Although it boasts an enviable healthcare system, Hong Kong is not yet capable of implementing citywide testing to contain a pandemic of such unprecedented scale. The ubiquitous private clinics throughout the city do not have nucleic acid testing capabilities. Neither are they authorized to acquire such capabilities and provide testing service to the general public. Without an efficient public response system, execution mechanism and technical capabilities, Hong Kong by definition cannot be experienced in successfully containing such an overwhelming pandemic.

There are two barriers that prevent Hong Kong society from recognizing these handicaps. One is the prejudice against the socialist system of the mainland and the blind worship of Hong Kong’s capitalism. Such misconceptions have prevented many Hong Kong residents, including many in the pro-establishment camp, from appreciating the mainland’s edge over Hong Kong in terms of social system or from acknowledging Hong Kong’s shortcomings. The other is a very rigid understanding of “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong” and “a high degree of autonomy” among local residents, to the point they tend to insist on treating public health as internal affairs and refuse to ask the central government for help or reject mainland assistance.

Now that the two “barriers” have been knocked down by the formidable third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong is expected to turn the grave situation around with professional assistance and quality equipment from the mainland. In doing so Hong Kong will no doubt become experienced in combating a pandemic of this magnitude, with a mature emergency response system and execution mechanism to boot. At the same time such an experience will draw Hong Kong residents closer to mainland compatriots and the idea of a “shared future for mankind”, thus motivating Hong Kong to right the wrongs caused by political prejudice.

To right wrongs, Hong Kong must first ensure “one country” is the prerequisite and basis of “two systems” both in concept and system arrangement. Postponing the LegCo election by a year will facilitate the fight to contain the pandemic, which needs and is now receiving help from the motherland. Of course a few Western governments led by Washington and London hate to see Hong Kong do well this way, which is why they jumped on the Hong Kong-bashing bandwagon without thinking.

The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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