Blood donation is an essential service to build up the blood bank of local hospitals. However, a recent call for blood donation has triggered a public relations crisis and revived conflict between Hong Kong and China after some netizens said the blood is being mainly used by Chinese patients in Hong Kong, not by Hong Kong people.
Last week, the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, which is operated by the Hospital Authority, urged Hongokongers to donate blood to ease a severe shortage, especially of blood types O and AB.
Local media reports said many people heeded the call and rushed to donation centers over the weekend. The Red Cross, however, was not too happy about it.
It said people should visit these centers at different times and not focus on weekends, citing about 1,100 donors are required daily to replenish blood supply. The requirement is 800 bags of blood going to Hong Kong’s public hospitals.
The blood donation call no doubt shows how a government-run service failed to get in touch with the internet, especially critics who could influence the general public.
Many netizens questioned why Hong Kong’s blood inventories were running out so fast and whether the blood was for Hong Kong people or for mainland Chinese.
A Red Cross post about the relationship between donors and the dwindling blood inventories, which were down to four days, drew a surfeit of negative comments.
Some internet users felt that their intention to donate blood was being hijacked by the organization. Some even accused the Red Cross of threatening Hong Kong people to donate blood.
The post drew more than 1,000 “angry” emoticons on Facebook after it was posted on Thursday.
Of course, readers’ feelings about the post were subjective but the Red Cross’s response did not directly address allegations that the main beneficiaries of the blood donation are mainland Chinese, not Hong Kong people.
Red Cross officials later clarified that the blood inventories are for all people in need, citing a surge in major operations and other cases, including postpartum bleeding and organ transplants.
From a medical perspective, hospitals are supposed to save all lives in danger without discrimination.
The internet critics’ allegations of blood supply being used or reserved for mainlanders strike at the heart of social conflict ever since Beijing started meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.
The growth of such radical mindset was mainly due to the rise of localism in the past five years when outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pushed pro-Beijing policies at the expense of Hong Kong’s core values.
The blood donation saga is only one example of the lack of trust by the populace in the authorities. The Red Cross could be a victim of Leung’s policies.
It would be quite unreasonable to link blood donation to the China-Hong Kong conflict under normal circumstances.
But under this government, Hong Kong people are more defensive about issues related to the allocation of public resources.
Hong Kong people resent the fact that China has been sending more mainlanders to Hong Kong to enjoy its way of life, which is being interpreted as a way to transfer local interests to Chinese immigrants.
Now the Red Cross is under pressure to account for the blood donation by Hong Kong people to ensure that it is being used appropriately.
Several key opinion leaders on social media are criticizing internet users for politicizing the issue and urging Hong Kong people to think rationally.
Unfortunately, it seems that our politicians are not the least worried about the the lack of public trust that has arisen from the crisis.
Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam should play a more proactive role in differentiating herself from Leung by being more transparent and by listening to the public.
Her support of the blood donation scheme should help to ease the public relations crisis and stop speculations from spreading any further.
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