On social media platforms, some commentators like to develop the flesh of defamation beneath the protective skin of freedom of speech. Their followers like to select groundless accusations that support their pre-existing opinions and beliefs. Such biased searches for preferred opinions are called confirmation bias.
In fact, the great swathes of information (including distorted facts and biased opinions) now available on social media seem to have seriously undermined confidence in the veracity of what people read and see.
One hardly needs reminding that more information has led to more disinformation. The aim of this article is to help readers filter facts concerning the district services and Care Teams in Hong Kong from defamatory opinions.
Sang Pu, who is notorious for his malicious criticism of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, moved to Taiwan after the promulgation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong in June 2020. Besides being a political commentator, he also wears another hat as the chairman of the Taiwan Hong Kong Association.
The experimental Care Teams program aims to provide social services for the needy in the city’s 18 districts. It’s essentially a public-private partnership which liberates the government from making a substantial financial commitment to sustain the program
In late 2022, he maliciously portrayed the Care Teams in a defamatory light. His main argument was that the Care Teams would play a similar role to neighborhood and residential committees on the Chinese mainland, all of which report developments in their communities back to the authorities. Sang claimed that Care Teams would be exactly the same as neighborhood committees on the mainland, and that the Communist Party of China wants to introduce them into Hong Kong to help quell any efforts to promote freedom and democracy.
The above notions do not seem to be honestly held by Sang.
First, it is worth noting that the HKSAR courts have, since the establishment of the special administrative region, been advancing the frontiers of human rights adjudication (The Judicial Construction of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, Lo Pui Yin (HKU Press, 2014)). Hong Kong people cherish freedom. Sang’s conspiracy theory is so fantastically alarming that it is beyond the imagination of all fair-minded people.
Keeping a watchful eye on residents would definitely draw an angry rebuke from all sectors of the community. It’s impossible to get the resentment genie back into the bottle after having released it. The conspiracy theories, such as of a so-called “surveillance scheme”, which Sang and others have suggested, provide further ammunition for Western politicians to use against China.
Second, any “surveillance scheme” would come at a great cost to the legitimacy of the HKSAR government.
Third, it is what the Care Teams are actually doing that really matters. The Care Teams in two pilot districts deserve great credit for providing caring services for the needy in accordance with their plans. Other Care Teams will follow suit.
Fourth, it is highly unlikely, given the complicated composition of the Care Teams, that the government could throw a shroud of secrecy over any hidden surveillance agenda.
Finally, the radar screens of the Care Teams may have blind spots because some residents are not covered by their service plans.
Facts are sacred. Some important facts can help us understand the true nature of the Care Teams. Critics should read the following paragraphs before pointing accusing fingers at the Care Teams.
The experimental Care Teams program aims to provide social services for the needy in the city’s 18 districts. It’s essentially a public-private partnership which liberates the government from making a substantial financial commitment to sustain the program. Supporting the government’s district-level work also enjoys a very high priority on the Care Teams’ agenda.
As announced in the 2022 Policy Address, Care Teams will be set up in the 18 districts to consolidate community resources and forces, support the government’s district-level work and strengthen community networks. Care Teams will organize caring activities and assist in handling emergencies. Acting as a transmission belt, they can also help the government disseminate information to the public and relay the views of the public to the government.
The two pilot districts are the Tsuen Wan and Southern districts. Other districts will gradually set up their own Care Teams, drawing on the experiences of those in the pilot districts. The government will delineate each district into sub-districts. Currently, the Tsuen Wan district has 19 sub-districts, while the Southern district has 17. District Officers will oversee all Care Teams. The performance of respective Care Teams will be assessed with reference to key performance indicators.
An examination of the Tsuen Wan and Southern districts’ Care Teams enables us to have a better grasp of their actual operations. The Tsuen Wan Care Teams have gathered community resources and lived up to the spirit of serving the community and building a caring community. Care Teams in these two districts have started providing caring services for people in need. As of the end of June, Care Teams in the Tsuen Wan and Southern districts had visited or contacted over 2,000 households with elderly members, and 1,000 other households in need, and had provided assistance based on the needs of those households. For example, the Care Team in the Southern district visited residents of A Square, the first transitional housing in the district, to understand their needs and help them integrate into the community.
Care Teams in Tsuen Wan have, so far, provided emergency assistance on two occasions under the command of the Tsuen Wan District Office. With regards to policy promotion, Care Teams in the Tsuen Wan and Southern districts actively promoted the government’s proposal to improve governance at the district level in May. Since commencing work that month, Care Teams in the two districts have already set up at least two communications channels (including telephone, email, social media and instant messaging applications) so members of the public can contact them.
It is hoped that the above clarifications will stop defamatory narratives and rumors from dominating the marketplace of ideas.
Pearl Tsang is chairwoman of Hong Kong Ample Love Society and co-director of district administration of the Chinese Dream Think Tank.
Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister, part-time researcher of Shenzhen University Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law Research Center, and chairman of the Chinese Dream Think Tank.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS