Tue. Jan 18th, 2022


When Hong Kong’s new “only patriots” legislature met for its first sitting on Wednesday, many of the chamber’s 90 seats were vacant. Twenty lawmakers could only report from the House or government quarantine after being caught attending a large birthday party despite official advice to avoid such gatherings. It was later confirmed that at least one person at the party, who was also attended by 13 senior government officials, had Covid.

Hong Kong Legislative Council, elected last month by a fraud election that excluded candidates considered disloyal to Beijing were meant to be a shining model of Chinese government. There would be none of the vetoes or filibusters by an intrusive pro-democracy camp that, in the eyes of both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, has violated the previous legislature. The people’s business would be run in an efficient, dignified manner, by speeding up spending bills and addressing everything from pandemic management to the chronic housing shortage.

Most importantly, Hong Kong’s new patriotic legislature can persuade Beijing to allow quarantine – free travel between the region and China. In return, Hong Kong would uphold the punishment three week quarantine it rests on those arriving from abroad.

But as Boris Johnson’s now infamous bring-your-own-drink locks garden party in the UK, the birthday party angered a population exhausted by restrictions. Restaurants can seat guests for breakfast and lunch, but not dinner, when only takeaway service is allowed, as if the virus were nocturnal animals. Primary schools close this week, but others do not – at least not yet.

“Things were just fine until this week – the kids at school, ballet, gymnastics, football,” one friend told me. “Then the plug on all that – and [we’re] back to homeschooling. The anger on the part of parents with primary school children is tremendous. . . The birthday party was the last straw. ”

The 13 officials caught up in the controversy were models of remorse. Like Johnson’s, their work is now at stake. Many of the legislators, on the other hand, rather tried to blame everyone from Cathay Pacific Airways to Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s unfortunate. CEO. They accuse Cathay air crew of starting the last outbreak (a negligible one by international standards with only 383 cases over the past two weeks) and Lam’s administration of allegedly mishandling it. In a self-recorded outburst of quarantine that went viral, one lawmaker who attended the party, demanded Lam’s resignation.

This could be dangerous talk in Hong Kong, where a malleable national security law and other colonial-era laws have been deployed to jail dozens of pro-democracy activists and force the closure of independent media. Forty-seven democracies fighters awaiting trial for undermining, on the grounds that they were trying to compete and win enough seats in the legislature to block the government’s agenda and possibly enforce Lam’s resignation.

In many of the world, it is otherwise known as standard competitive politics. In Hong Kong, these are grounds for a very long prison sentence.

For pro-Beijing lawmakers, Cathay, which is controlled by the British Swire family, is an easier target. Communist party-controlled newspapers, whose editorials often feature subsequent government actions, said Cathay should be held accountable for his crew’s alleged role in importing Omicron. Lam said the government would investigate. This week, Cathay’s chair strike back at the critique.

It’s hard to believe that Hong Kong flourished just three years ago in its traditional role as a bridge to China. Now the area is trapped, isolated from both its Chinese interior and the rest of the world, with no end to its isolation in sight.

tom.mitchell@ft.com





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