HK govt fails its citizens amid the coronavirus crisis

February 21, 2020 17:15
A man walks past empty toilet paper shelves at a Hong Kong supermarket. The coronavirus outbreak has fueled panic-buying of essential items, with a face-mask shortage denting people’s confidence in the government’s ability to ensure supplies. (Reuters)

On Feb. 9, Bloomberg ran article titled “Hong Kong is Showing Symptoms of a Failed State” in its opinion section, in which the author, Clara Ferreira Marques, referred to Hong Kong as a "fragile state".

A "fragile state", according to her, is defined by "its inability to protect citizens, to provide basic services and by questions over the legitimacy of its government.”

"After an epidemic and months of poorly handled pro-democracy demonstrations, Hong Kong is ticking most of those boxes,” she wrote, referring to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Meanwhile, Marques noted that although Singapore has also been hit by the virus, which triggered a wave of panic buying of daily necessities among citizens, the city-state didn’t witness the same “sustained levels of frenzy” as Hong Kong did.

Well, if you ask me, I would say that Taiwan has also done a better job than Hong Kong in combating the coronavirus problem.

For example, Taiwan was way ahead of Hong Kong when it came to enforcing border closure against the mainland and implementing mandatory quarantine for inbound travelers.

In particular, the Taiwanese government took a decisive step in late January by undertaking to invest in a total of 62 face-mask production lines.

It is estimated that by the time these production lines are up and running by late February or early March, they can turn out as many as 10 million pieces a day, thereby making Taiwan the second largest producer of face masks, in terms of total output, in the world after mainland China.

By contrast, in Hong Kong, government officials didn’t bother to even provide support for private manufacturers that were proposing to establish facilities to produce protective face coverings.

Even Macau has outdone Hong Kong, in ensuring stable supply of face masks for the citizens at a low price.

What the people of Hong Kong are seeking is a "sense of security", in terms of stable supply of personal protective gear and daily essentials, as well as assurances on their well-being and personal freedoms.

Sadly, the government has failed to deliver on all of this, fueling a deep sense of helplessness among the citizens.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 20

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RC

HKEJ columnist