Regrowth and economic downturn create anti-Beijing cocktail in Hong Kong

Regrowth and economic downturn create anti-Beijing cocktail in Hong Kong
Image credit AFP

Hong Kong suffers a new outbreak, the third, of the coronavirus, with more than one hundred new infections daily in the last seven days, after months with hardly any cases. As of yesterday, more than 3,000 people had contracted Covid-19 and 24 deaths had been reported, while health authorities warned that hospitals are “reaching the limit” of their capacity.

The spike in infections responds to both local transmission and imported cases, and the big problem is that some of them are of unknown origin. Most of the cases have been detected in the Kowloon Peninsula and have affected nursing homes, taxi drivers, restaurant workers and even sailors: up to six ships have been quarantined.

A student leader arrested and a professor who stood out in the 2014 protests expelled from the university

The Government has reacted with the strictest measures to date against the pandemic: a total ban on eating in restaurants (you can only ask to take away), a maximum of two people in meetings and a mandatory mask at all times. The fines range from $ 250 to $ 600.

Some experts attribute the outbreaks to the lack of tests, the relaxation of the rules of social distance and, especially, the exemptions authorized by the Government to quarantines for those who entered the city. Since February, more than 200,000 people have benefited from these exceptions.

The authorities have had to acknowledge several things: that the quarantine exemption policy has had to do with contagion, that the city is in the midst of an economic recession (GDP fell 9% in the second quarter) and that the legislative elections, scheduled for next September 6, will have to be postponed.

Thus, public television RTHK yesterday cited sources close to the Executive who assured that the option of postponing it for one year was on the table. The presentation of candidacies ends tomorrow Friday, and the elections seem to be a key moment since in November the pro-democratic opposition devastated the elections for district councillors, which evidenced support for the anti-government protests that began in mid-2019. The opposition hoped to win the majority in the Legislative Council, while some prominent figures in the ruling party have already called for the vote to be delayed due to the pandemic.

But it’s not just about Covid-19: the security law China recently passed for Hong Kong has raised fears that numerous opposition candidates will be barred from running. At least nine of them have received letters from the electoral commission asking them to clarify their position on the law and on the sanctions imposed by the US after its approval.

Yesterday, a 19-year-old student leader, Tony Chung, was arrested for incitement to secession, his group, Studentlocalism, announced. And on Tuesday, one of the leading figures of the so-called 2014 umbrella revolution, Benny Tai, was fired from his position as professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, which the victim considered the “end of academic freedom” in the city.