This publication was originally written by Kris Cheng and published in Hong Kong Free Press on February 1, 2020. It is reproduced in Global Voices under a content collaboration agreement.
The Government's response to the recent outbreak of coronavirus has angered Hong Kong's population. In a matter of weeks, almost 10,000 people have been infected, more than one hundred have died in China and ten cases have been confirmed locally the first week of February.
The spread of the virus has caused panic throughout the city and people are accumulating surgical masks and food. Meanwhile, distrust of the authorities has been consolidated during months of prodemocracy protests and riots and then face the outbreak this month.
Here is the summary of the seven reasons why Hong Kong people are enraged with the authorities' response.
Appeal against masking law
In response to the continuing protests of last November, Executive Director Carrie Lam, enacted an anti-masks law through the Emergency Regulations Ordinance of 1922. Prodemocracy lawmakers challenged the law making the Court of First Instance declare the law unconstitutional. . However, the Government decided to appeal and the case was brought to trial.
The result is still pending, but Democrats wonder how the government can suggest citizens to wear masks and, at the same time, try to prohibit by legal means to cover their faces.
Lam has rejected the demands of leaving the case, and argues that it is not related to the virus outbreak.
Shortage of masks
The Government did not recommend the inhabitants to wear masks during the first days of the outbreak, even after the first local case was confirmed on January 22. Three days later, executive director Carrie Lam appeared before a press conference without a mask.
Although the vast majority of Hong Kong people wear masks when they use public transportation, the scene brings to mind the 2003 SARS outbreak, since it was not until after six days that Lam joined other senior officials and appeared at a conference Press with mask.
Since then, the authorities have recommended that Hong Kong people wear surgical masks during mass meetings and trips, even though they are almost unavailable throughout the territory.
And although Singapore is giving out free masks and the Korean consulate is also distributing them to its citizens in Hong Kong, there is no promise to implement similar government programs in the city. On the contrary, the general secretary, Matthew Cheung, has said that the approach will be aimed at supplying distributors.
Demands for border closure
Demands were made to close the border with mainland China, even before the first case of the Wuhan virus was confirmed in Hong Kong. But on January 28, the Government announced that it would only take measures to reduce the number of people entering the city from mainland China.
A new union of more than 15,000 employees of the Hospital Authority has threatened to start a strike if the government does not completely close the border with China. However, the Lam regime has said that such action is discriminatory and is not recommended by the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile, other Asian nations such as Mongolia and Singapore have banned Chinese citizens from crossing their borders.
They close minor checkpoints
After the government finally started closing checkpoints, it had to face criticism for closing only a few minor crossings instead of closing them all. Although communication between high-speed trains across the border was interrupted, as well as ferry services, those routes represent only 8% of daily traffic between Hong Kong and mainland China.
Many visitors are expected to fill out a health declaration form, however there is a fear that not everyone will do it honestly.
Meanwhile, the main checkpoints: Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau, Shenzhen Bay and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge remain open.
Free medical treatment: then revoked
The Government announced that it would provide free medical treatment to patients who contract the new virus, to prevent the cost from being an impediment for victims to receive treatment.
However, this policy was widely criticized, because it encourages patients from mainland China to travel to Hong Kong to receive medical treatment, since the border remains open. The Government revoked the policy the next day and announced that those who are not residents of Hong Kong must pay.
Fanling property will function as a quarantine center, then revoked
The government said that in February it would use the Fai Ming property in Fanling, a public housing building that has not yet been opened to the public, as a quarantine center.
Since the proposal had not yet been submitted to public consultation and the place is only one street away from two other densely populated residential properties, many opposed this plan. During the protests, journalists discovered that supplies for quarantine had already been stored there. Some activists threw gasoline pumps into the lobby. In the end, the Government was forced to abandon the plan.
Special offer to cross bridge for free
In an effort to encourage the use of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the Government announced in January that the crossing will be free for small vehicles during the lunar New Year festivities. The offer would last until February 2.
Although a similar policy was promulgated in 2019 during the holiday season, many Hong Kong people are concerned that the offer will simply attract more patients from mainland China to Hong Kong, which will cause the virus to spread.
Read the Global Voices special coverage on How will the Wuhan coronavirus impact the political and global future of China?