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Hong Kong Officials and Cathay Pacific Employees Violate COVID-19 Rules

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Published: January 20, 2022
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves the Legislative Council main chamber after an oath-swearing ceremony on January 3, 2022 in Hong Kong, China.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves the Legislative Council main chamber after an oath-swearing ceremony on January 3, 2022 in Hong Kong, China. (Image: Anthony Kwan via Getty Images)

Hong Kong has implemented one of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the world. Like China, it follows a zero-tolerance approach regarding the pandemic. That means that the Hong Kong administration will seek to control any COVID-19 outbreak even if it affects the city’s social and economic aspects. 

Hong Kong is currently embroiled in two scandals involving violations of COVID-19 rules. The first involves a party of political delegates; the second is related to crew members of airline Cathay Pacific breaking self-isolation regulations.

On Jan. 3, several Hong Kong government officials attended a birthday party of Witman Hung, a delegate from the National People’s Congress (NPC). Two people who attended the party were subsequently diagnosed as having COVID-19. 

Photos from the event show many members at the event taking part in karaoke without wearing any masks. All people who attended the party and their close contacts were sent to quarantine facilities.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam ordered an investigation into the behavior of 13 senior officials from her administration who attended the party. She expressed “deep disappointment” at the officials for ignoring the government’s advice to avoid large gatherings as the city struggled to contain the spread of Omicron.

“I am very disappointed because this anti-pandemic work has persisted for so long, so many of us have been working so hard to fight against the pandemic, so as principal officials of the administration, we should lead by example and refrain from taking part in private events,” Lam stated at a press conference.

Beijing asked Lam to take “swift action” against the officials, warning that any delay in such action could hurt the credibility of the government. Government advisors are reportedly discussing the possibility of pay cuts, demotions, and suspensions to be given to the rule-breakers.

“For civil servants with permanent positions, any misconduct would lead to an investigation which could take two or three years, with a range of options from dismissal, compulsory retirement, demotion to salary deduction… But this mechanism would not be applicable to political appointees. It is entirely up to the chief executive to decide whether to fire them or let them resign,” Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, leader of the New People’s Party, told SCMP.

In the Cathay Pacific scandal, two crew members broke self-isolation rules and have also attracted the ire of the communist regime. Lam has announced an investigation into the breach. The violation allegedly triggered a COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong. 

Chairman of the Cathay Pacific Patrick Healy apologized for the incident and stated that the company will comply with the government investigations. An editorial at CCP-backed “Ta Kung Pao” newspaper in Hong Kong called for criminal prosecution. 

“Loopholes need to be plugged, and the offenders need to be severely punished to prevent others from doing the same… As a major [Hong Kong] company, Cathay Pacific must fulfill its social responsibilities in the fight against COVID-19, not least because it received nearly HK$30 billion in government funding during the early stages of the pandemic… The facts have proved that Cathay’s repeated negligence has led to deaths in Hong Kong,” the editorial claimed.

There have been 13,066 cases of COVID-19 infections in Hong Kong; 12,327 people have reportedly recovered; 213 individuals have died. The number of new daily cases in the city had fallen to low levels last June. But this month, Hong Kong has seen a rise in COVID-19 infections.