GOOD MORNING FROM LONDON
In yesterday’s column – #356 16 February 2022 – I contrasted the handling of the covid epidemic between US/UK and China addressing two issues, first, the difference in the number of Covid victims and, second, the implications for democracy and protecting the people.
Today I return to the issue of Covid because of the surge (18,200) in Covid infections in Hong Kong in recent weeks. President Xi Jinping has raised the issue as a priority for the administration of CEO Carrie Lam. Xi’s perspective is twofold – the safety of the citizens of Hong Kong and the continuation of social stability.
Hong Kong is not China. It contains a sizeable minority who resist direction from Beijing and press for Western democratic freedoms – the same freedoms that have led to 1m Covid deaths in US/UK combined. Any discontent with Covid related issues will trigger troubles on the streets of Hong Kong.
Carrie Lam has options – one is to take control, pursue a non-negotiable policy of strict anti-Covid measures and focus on controlling the epidemic. The other is to fear public reaction to the growing numbers of Covid sufferers and allow the protest to fester.
The West’s incorrect assumption all along has been that Xi’s strict anti-Covid measures would be unpopular with the Chinese people and stir street protests. It has not happened. Harsh and uncomfortable as the restriction of movement and constant testing is, it is the only way to beat back the rogue epidemic. Whilst there are complaints about the restrictions of individual movement, there is widespread acceptance that the hard-line works. Deaths have been kept to a minimum and public life remains safe.
Xi’s recent remarks followed talks between Hong Kong and the Mainland about strengthening testing, isolation and treatment facilities in order to improve the supply of food and daily necessities. Beating Covid-19 is an absolute priority in Hong Kong.