Civil disservice

January 26, 2021 10:32
Photo: Bloomberg

For anyone in a position of power, whether they seized it or were elected to it, there is a correlative responsibility to those over whom the power is exercised.

Whereas it is true that autocrats’ singular interest is in themselves and the retention of power, those who govern as a result of a free election must, if they wish to remain in power, demonstrate their responsibility for their electorate.

Democratic electoral systems make the elected rulers answerable to those over whom they exercise control. If dissatisfied, the electorate can vote them out of office.

The autocrat’s only fear is that the governed may rise up and throw him out.

Hong Kong falls between two stools, it cannot vote its government out of office nor, given the reality of the naked power of the PRC, can it toss it out.

This unhappy stalemate means that the people of Hong Kong are hoist with a government that is demonstrably dysfunctional yet there is nothing they can do about it.

Nowhere is this more blatantly evident than in the balefully stupid history of handling the Covid-19 crisis.

Unquestionably, the relative success that Hong Kong has achieved in terms of mortality and morbidity rates is attributable to the practical common sense of the vast majority of Hong Kong people, despite the repeated failures of government.

This history of government incompetence is not attributable to Hong Kong’s leading epidemiologists or any shortcomings in the hospital services, both of which have been and continue to provide outstanding service.

Compare, if you will, the success achieved by Macau which closed its borders as soon as it became aware that there was a potential pandemic.

How many of us were aware that what was supposed to be a closure of Hong Kong’s borders was subject to so many inexcusable exemptions that the ship of state had, to all intents and purposes, opened every stopcock in the vessel, almost as though they wanted it to sink.

Not just airline crews and ship’s crews were free to roam the shops and streets and restaurants but, heaven help us, directors of publicly listed companies and the entire consular corps.

With all these apertures letting in the virally infected, the government imposed a series of spastic bandaid measures to the resident population.

Anyone but a blighted idiot knows that the virus has to be contained but that people’s livelihoods have to be protected as far as practicably possible.

Setting and maintaining a proper balance between these two objectives is critical to . health and economical survival.

I doubt whether anywhere in the world there is a more extensive recognition of the necessity for face masks, hand washing, temperature taking and social distancing.

There are, undoubtedly, selfish people who gather in large groups, mindless of the potential they create to get infected and to spread infection to others. But these are a small minority.

The quarantine regimes have been half-baked and inadequately combined with frequent testing to minimize the period of isolation.

The prohibitions on various aspects of social intercourse must have been designed by someone with the intelligence of a 5 year old infant.

The only thing that they have manifestly succeeded in doing is to throw almost the entire gig economy out of work.

The foot soldiers of the hospitality industry, waiters, barmen, cooks, kitchen porters and the entire music industry have been devastated, most of them receiving no compensation whatsoever.

Bars, restaurants and cafes are forced to close down because they can no longer afford the rents demanded by Hong Kong’s Shylock property developers.

Add to this unsavoury package the widespread psychological damage that these measures are causing and it is no flight of imagination to project a very serious mental health problem even when we emerge from the crisis.

One can only imagine that the government cretins who devised the rule of no more than 2 at a table are woefully ignorant of the complement of any family of more than a husband and wife.

Mother, father and two children live, eat and sleep together at home but have to separate when they eat out or meet in public. You have to pinch yourself to be sure that this is not just a nightmare.

If there is a fear that wind instruments could be used to project germs into the atmosphere, for what possible reason are pianists, guitarists, bass players and drummers banned?

People need live music, particularly to help combat the depressive effect of the virus and its concomitant restrictions.

And what possible scientific justification can there be for closing restaurants, bars, clubs at 6.0 pm? Killing off their revenue earning capacity for the evening meals has no apparent rationale. What was scientifically proven to be conducive to the spread of the virus when they were open until 10.0pm?

It is reminiscent of the mentality of a child’s fear of the dark, when trolls and evil forces roamed the night air.

As if this were not sufficient censure of gross, indeed criminal, negligence, why is there no urgent vaccination programme being implemented? More, why doesn’t Hong Kong already have a stockpile of vaccines?

The height of this government’s achievements (?) to stem the rate of infection was importing a cartload of Mainland operatives of unknown clinical competence, to carry out a charade of testing. Now that circus has left town too.

If they were short of manpower to police the social distancing, why not deploy all those underemployed Immigration and Customs officers as Covid Wardens.

At the heart of the problem is a bunch of civil servants, safe in their salaries and pensions who simply have no idea whatsoever of what it is like to have to forage for a living.

Secure in their iron rice bowl citadels they purport to prescribe for people whose needs they neither do nor can understand.

In any well-regulated society their job-security would be a thing of the past. In Hong Kong’s twilight world in which the government is not accountable to the governed, Franz Kafka rules.

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King's Counsel