Friday, July 31, 2020

An election postponement announcement to cap off a nightmare month for Hong Kong

Flowers for Stanley Ho's funeral
will there be any at Hong Kong's?

Okay, Hong Kong may not be dead yet but who knows 
when ballot boxes like these will get used again?

Earlier today came word that Carrie Lam -- who a recent Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) poll found to have an "approval rate [of] 18%, disapproval rate 72%, giving a net popularity of negative 53 percentage points, registering a drop of 7 percentage points since half a month ago, but the change is within the sampling error" --  was going to hold a press conference at 6pm.  Pretty every much everyone knew it was to announce the postponement of the Legislative Council elections -- something the powers that be had been telegraphing this move for days now (see my mentions of this back on July 20th and again on July 27th).  And so it came to pass.    

To be sure, there are some people who might have thought that after disqualifying 12 democratic camp hopefuls from taking part in the Legislative Council elections yesterday, the authorities felt confident enough that the pro-government/Beijing faction would prevail in the coming elections.  And this on top of the legislature already being fixed to favor the establishment by way of being made up of representatives of functional constituencies as well as geographical ones.

But I guess the Hong Kong government, its acolytes and/or its bosses no longer are under illusions after last November's District Council elections revealed how widespread the dissatisfaction with "the establishment" is -- and that the (previously) much vaunted "silent majority" actually favors the pro-democracy camp!  Put another way: the powers that be may have lots of power and tools to oppress people but they also know now that they have not won the hearts and minds of the majority of voters (and, for that matter, Hong Kongers in general).  And I honestly think that they're pretty fearful as a result.

As to the timing of the announcement that the Legislative Council polls will be postponed for a year (at the very least):  I can't help but think that they wanted to wait to mark the one month anniversary of the implementation of China's security law for Hong Kong with a bang -- to cap off what's been quite the whirlwind month of oppressive activity (which a number of sources, including the folks over at China Uncensored and a number of academics, believe are taking place because Xi Jinping's window of opportunity might be smaller than he would like).     

And no, I don't think there's anyone with a brain out there who is buying the suggestion that this postponement has anything to do with anti-Wuhan coronavirus measures (even though the third wave is indeed currently battling Hong Kong, with 121 new cases reported today and the death toll now up to 27).  After all, there's so much Carrie Lam could have done to prevent the pandemic from worsening -- including tightening quarantine and testing restrictions, if not outright closing the border -- but she has damned herself (and Hong Kong) by opting not to do so

Amidst all this, there's a piece of news that might got more attention if it had broke on a slower news day: the announcement by Hong Kong's top public prosecutor that he's stepping down, citing differences with Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng and being sidelined from cases under the new China-imposed national security legislation.  The full text of David Leung's  internal email to a colleague has been released and people are debating whether he quit because his conscience was pricking him or because of office politics.  But what is clear is that not everyone has been reading from the same page over in the government camp: and I don't (just) mean medical experts vis a vis the goverment officials overseeing health matters  (including the woman with a reputation for being quite the control freak)!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

A record day of punishment and misery for Hong Kong

More words of wisdom to be found just minutes' away

So much has happened in the last 24 hours or so that I feel a need to write it all down in a blog post.  First, a Wuhan coronavirus update: Sadly, today's number of daily new cases hit a record high again -- with 149 being reported.  In addition, Hong Kong has one more person dead today by way of this especially deadly third wave which hit the territory on what has been a seriously disastrous month overall.

On the non-medical front: remember that this is the very first month that China's security law is being imposed in Hong Kong.  And while there may have been people who thought things would stay the same as before for a time, I think no one thinks that's the case anymore now that we've seen a veritable whirlwind of political persecution and repression taking place over what really is a relative short period of time.      

Just look at today, which began with people trying to figure out how many people had actually been arrested last night on suspicion of organising and inciting secession. (The figure of one turned to three after I finished blogging last night and currently stands at four.)  This brings the number of people arrested under China's new security legislation for Hong Kong up to 15 since the law came into effect at the end of June.

As Kong Tsung-gan noted in a Tweet: Eleven of that number were arrested for holding banners/posters with words on them at the July 1st anti-security law/pro-democracy protests while the actions taken against the four last night were for a single social media post they made.  Put another way: all the arrests under China's national security legislation for Hong Kong to date are to do with speech rather than, say, actual, violent action.

The Guardian's initial reportage of last night's arrests (since updated and changed) had it that "three men and one woman aged between 16 and 21 were arrested".  Actually, since three of them are teenagers, I'm more inclined to refer to the arrestees arrested for "inciting secession" against a country of 1.4 billion people as youngsters.  Lest it not be clear:  Tony Chung Hon-lam, Ho Nok-hang, Yanni Loren Ho and Chan Wai-Yan are student activists. The most prominent of the quartet, Tony Chung, is just 19 years old and, as such, still can't legally buy alcohol in the USA (where the drinking age is 21) or, for that matter, Japan (where the drinking age is 20)!

In the afternoon, I went off to the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court to attend the latest court session involving the trial of the Democracy 15 (whose shock arrests took place back on April 18th and first court date was back on May 18th).  With the court adjourned after a few hours to September 18th of next year, I came away thinking that the wheels of justice can move super slowly in Hong Kong.

Upon my return home from my trip to West Kowloon though, I was reintroduced to the sense that too much can happen too quickly for comfort upon learning that 12 pro-democracy candidates for the Legislative Council elections currently scheduled for this September 8th have been disqualified for running for office.  And should anyone wonder, of course they include a good many of those who had triumphed in the democratic camp primaries which took place earlier this month, and attracted over 600,000 voters!    

Put another way: this latest move by the Hong Kong government was not unexpected, given the way the situation in Hong Kong has deteriorated.  Even so... Honestly, if I didn't know better, I'd be inclined to think that those who run Hong Kong are going all out to make people really dislike and disrespect them (epecially its fearless -- or is it more likely to be fearful -- leader), and to destroy Hong Kong.  

At other times though, I think that they are plain idiotic.  Otherwise, how would one explain the actions of an administration who ended up making a u-turn on a purported anti-Wuhan coronavirus measure just 24 hours after beginning its implementation -- no doubt as a result of realizing the terrible optics that it had brought about as well as the actual misery it had caused many?  

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Another bad couple of days for Hong Kong, and not just because of the Wuhan coronavirus :(

"Together, we fight the virus!" in disunited Hong Kong

I thought this was a sketch of Winnie the Pooh;
while a friend thought it was a depiction of a dog!
About the best news that'll be appearing in today's blog post is that no new record number of daily Wuhan coronavirus cases -- and, for that matter, deaths -- were set in Hong Kong yesterday and today.  At the same time, the number of daily new cases remain in the triple digits: with there being 106 new infections yesterday and 118 reported for today (bringing the overall total past the 3,000 mark to 3,002).  Also, there being one more coronavirus fatality recorded yesterday and today means that Hong Kong's number of coronavirus deaths has now gone up to 24 (with 17 of them having taken place since July came along).   
All this not withstanding, Hong Kong's toughest anti-Wuhan coronavirus measures began being enacted today.  And, already, it has brought misery to a good number of people.  You've got the running enthusiasts who now have a better idea of what waterboarding feels like (by way of their masks getting drenched with sweat and their finding it torturous to try to breathe through its increasingly damp material) since mask-wearing is required in public spaces even when one's exercising.  
And amidst all this, the political persecutions are continuingA Tweet about this by Quartz writer Mary Hui is worth quoting in its entirety:  "Where[as] last year's defining moments were of the viscerally brutish kind—police violence, thugs beating up civilians, etc—this year's are of the "banal" flavour: academics fired for their politics, elections reportedly 'postponed,' a sweeping law signed into force late at night."
With regards to the "academics fired for their politics" part: Two days ago, it was announced that social welfare sector legislative representative Shui Ka-shun -- who shared his thoughts so movingly in Evans Chan's We Have Boots -- has lost his social work lectureship at Hong Kong Baptist University.  Then yesterday, it was legal scholar Benny Tai's turn to be sacked -- despite his holding a tenured position at the University of Hong Kong.   
If truth be told, the punitive actions taken against Shui and Tai by their erstwhile employers were ones many of us saw coming for some time; this on account of their having incurred the ire of the powers that be by way of their having played prominent parts in the Occupy phase of the Umbrella Movement back in 2014.  It doesn't mean that it's not upsetting though; this not least because of what they represent -- particularly that against Tai by the alma mater of Sun Yat-sen.  (More than incidentally, that the Liaison Office decided to issue a statement about it underlies how big a deal this is -- and the fact that it did it so quickly points to the decision having been ordered by it.)

Still the recent blow that's hit me harder is the announcement last week by filmmaker Jevons Au (Ten Years; Trivisa; Distinction) that he's felt obliged to leave Hong Kong for Canada.  Like with Nathan Law, I don't begrudge him for deciding that the coming into being of China's security legislation for Hong Kong has made this part of the world no longer a safe place for him to be.  (As exhibit A, witness the arrest -- on the suspicion of inciting secession under the new national security law -- of the 19-year-old former convenor of the disbanded Studentlocalism group, Tony Chung, this evening.)  
Rather, what pains me is that Hong Kong cinema's lost one of those individuals who I was hoping would be still be making (distinctively) Hong Kong movies after the more senior likes of Ann Hui, Tsui Hark and Johnnie To decide to call it a day.  And, this even more so: that his decision to leave is a strong sign that Jevons Au is no longer the optimistic revolutionary he was just two years ago.  And should it not be clear: he's probably still a revolutionary; just not optimistic about our beloved Hong Kong's prospects anymore. :(  

Monday, July 27, 2020

Focusing on the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus but also keeping an eye on governmental shenanigans

Way fewer people out in Causeway Bay yesterday
than is usually the case for a Sunday afternoon

And while Temple Street does usually come more alive after dark,
I'd never seen it looking so dead before as yesterday afernoon :(

I realize that I am starting to sound like a broken record but Hong Kong had yet another record-breaking day today as far as its number of new daily Wuhan coronavirus cases go -- with 145 new infections, only three of which were not local transmissions.  The previous day had actually not been seen a new record being set -- but even so, it was concerning, and undoubtedly an added burden to the already super stretched public hospital system, that there were 128 new cases reported yesterday.  Also record-breaking today was the number of Wuhan coronavirus fatalities: four within 24 hours; bringing the total number up to 22 (and making it so that Hong Kong has lost 15 lives to the coronavirus in the past 15 days).

Viewed from a certain perspective then, it was inevitable and warratned that the authorities would announce further anti-coronavirus measures and that they'd be the toughest introduced to date.  Among the more notable: restaurants being barred from offering any dine-in services for (at least) a week starting from this Wednesday; a ban of public gatherings of more than two people (with the only exceptions being if they involve members of the same household, and on public transportation); and face masks being mandatory in all public spaces, outdoor as well as indoor.  And yes, cinemas, bars and other venues previously ordered shut are to stay shuttered.

In addition, new rules were announced yesterday to limit the movement in Hong Kong of ship and air crews (starting also tomorrow) -- and, frankly, that decision is way overdue.  In view of a number of individuals that qualify for exemptions from quarantine on that now infamous long list with 33 categories of exempt people recently having been found to be carrying the coronavirus (including workers at the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse and a cross-border truck driver), the odds are pretty high that those having had at least a hand in breaking Hong Kong's recent 21 day streak of zero local transmissions came from at least one of those privileged categories of individuals exempted from undergoing the impressive sounding testing and quarantine process that Laurel Chor chronicled back in May (and which many of us had thought every person entering Hong Kong had been subjected to for some months now).

One reason why so many Hong Kongers have willingly worn masks for so long is that we hoped that by so doing, Hong Kongers would be spared restrictions on our movements.  But twice now, it seems that we've been sabotaged: back in March, by party animals and individuals who insisted on not only going to bars to drink but packing them in such as a way that it really made the coronavirus spread too easily; and, this time around, by the Hong Kong government with its quarantine loopholes and generally taking its eye off the coronavirus ball to focus on repressing and oppressing the people.

Indeed, even now, while people worry about such as coronavirus patients now needing to wait for hospital beds, the political persecutions are continuing apace; with actions taking place that make it look pretty much a certainty that a number -- if not all -- of the pro-democracy camp's candidates for the upcoming Legislative Council election (i.e., those who emerged as winners in the primaries that took place three weekends ago) are going to get disqualified from running on various grounds.  More specifically, a good number of these Legislative Council hopefuls are being subject to political screening by returning officers with no particular competence in constitutional law (some of whom are temporary replacements for ones who "just happened" to have decided to take leave for a time). 

At the same time, there's also the possibility that the Legislative Council elections will not take place this September or this year.  Already, veteran pro-Beijinger -- and former Legislative Council President -- Jasper Tsang has proposed that these elections be postponed for a year, ostensibly because of the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

But even while the Wuhan coronavirus is seriously plaguing Hong Kong at the moment, we all know that what the pro-Beijing camp (which, of course, includes the Hong Kong government) is fearing more is that it will suffer a big loss at the hands of voters once more, like was the case at last November's District Council elections.  For, as the headline of a recent article by political commentator Stephen Vines clearly states, "No one who expects to win an election wants it postponed"!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Another record breaking couple of days in Hong Kong as far as Wuhan coronavirus cases go :(

The two forms of transportation I most regularly use in Hong Kong

 Fewer people seem be taking the tram and bus these days though

So plans are afoot to decrease public transportation services! :(

We've had another couple of days of Wuhan coronavirus records being broken here in Hong Kong.  Yesterday saw a new record number of confirmed daily cases (123) along with one more life lost to the coronavirus.  And things got worse today with the surge in daily new cases leading to a fourth consecutive day of record breaking numbers: with 133 more cases reported today; and two fatalities (bringing the territory's total number of coronavirus deaths up to 18 now).

For good measure, today has also seen record numbers for active cases on record (1,018) and critical patients on any one day (37).  The former statistic is worrying because this is a situation that's obviously putting a serious strain on hospitals.  Consequently, while up through early this week, Hong Kong had been hospitalizing every single one of the territory's coronavirus patient -- be they asymptomatic or seriously ill --  a number of patients who were fever free and in stable condition were transferred on Thursday to the Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Camp, which previously had been converted into a quarantine center.    And the latter number is sad to see as it leads us to expect for there to be more deaths from this widespread illness in the coming days.  

Perhaps it smacks of my trying to be Pollyannaish but I do take some comfort from today also having seen the highest number of patients discharged in a single day to date (50).  At the minimum, it's a reminder that many people do recover from being infected by the Wuhan coronavirus.  Also, in the "thank goodness for small mercies" department is the fact that -- touch wood! -- the number of daily coronavirus cases have not risen exponentially in recent days.  (And to put Hong Kong's third wave stats into perspective: consider that its average cases per 100,000 people numbers are still lower than not just the USA's or Brazil's but also that of Singapore, Sweden and Australia.)

Of course, this by no means means that we can relax our guard in this fight against the Wuhan coronavirus.  Or, for that matter, even do such as socialize or go out as much as normal.  Even in normal times though, I would never go to as many places -- and in such a wide area of Hong Kong -- over the course of a single day as a 36-year-old individual who, on the day that she was confirmed as positive for the coronavirus, went to 16 different locations in several different sections of town (in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories)!

I could be generous and ascribe the recent decisions to reduce bus and MTR services as attempts to stem the movements of individuals like that.  But the reality, of course, is that those actions will probably result in more crowded buses and MTR trains than would be ideal, especially during a pandemic, as well as were made for economic reasons (to save the transport companies' money). It's almost like Hong Kong's policy-makers all travel about in chauffeur-driven cars and are supremely out of touch with most Hong Kong people -- and reality itself!  (More than by the way, remember "toilet papergate" -- and I do not mean the toilet paper shortage we faced earlier this year!!)

In any case: I hope that, since public transportation services are being reduced, junk boat trips are too -- if not outright banned.  Every time I see one of these vessels sailing back into town, they look to be filled with people who don't care to socially distance (forget masking up).  So it really was a matter of time before people would get infected by the coronavirus while on a junk boat trip, especially as it's really not impossible these days that one of their fellow junk boat revellers will have been infected already -- as was revealed to be the case today!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Hong Kong's Wuhan coronavirus records broken twice in the past two days, and medical experts make clear who's to blame!

Voluntary masking (for the most part) 
on the Star Ferry back in January

 Mandatory masking and social distancing 

Hong Kong's daily Wuhan coronavirus case tally hit a record high of 113 yesterday.  As if that was not bad enough, the daily number of confirmed cases exceeded that number today by five -- making for a new record high of 118 cases, with additional bad news coming by way of the territory recording its 15th fatality from the coronavirus to date earlier today.  

I realize that there are people in other, way harder hit parts of the world (like the USA or Brazil) who would celebrate if their country had Hong Kong's Wuhan coronavirus numbers.  But it needs to be borne in mind that it took Hong Kong just 56 days to double its coronavirus case numbers from 1,066 to 2,132 (as of yesterday).  Also, while the territory had its first coronavirus fatality in early February, and lost four more people to the coronavirus between then and early part of July, it now has had a further eight coronavirus fatalities in the past 11 days.  In other words: This past few weeks have been a disaster relative to the previous months with regards to the coronavirus' impact on Hong Kong.

Although there is some joy to be had from seeing Carrie Lam effectively doing a big u-turn with regards to mask wearing, there also is a sense that all this mask talk is an attempt to, well, mask the real problems. After all, it's not like the vast majority of Hong Kongers haven't already been wearing masks when venturing out of their homes.  


Should it not be clear: This medical expert's statement goes against the Hong Kong government's position that the exemptions did not trigger the recent surge in infections.  And further signs that medical experts are dissatisfied with how the Hong Kong government is (mis)handling the pandemic came about at the Hong Kong Medical Association press conference this afternoon, when the association's president, Dr Gabriel Choi Kin, ascribed Hong Kong's inability to carry out as many coronavirus tests daily as Singapore (20,000) or Macau (11,000) to its having a different head of government from them (with the clear implication being that he's talking about a qualitative difference between Hong Kong's and the two other territories!). 

More than by the way, Dr Choi seems to be quite the interesting fellow.  Among other things, he's both a past as well as current president of the Hong Kong Medical Association -- which would make him a real sucker for punishment as well as popular among, and respected by, his peers.  The good doctor also has a track record for being rather cheeky.  Exhibit A from earlier this year: the hand gestures he made when posing for photos at a previous Hong Kong Medical Association press conference.  Exhibit B, also from earlier this year: his having suggested that the People's Liberation Army bases in Hong Kong -- and/or the premises of the old Central Hotel, close to the Chief Executive's residence -- be used as quarantine facilities for coronavirus cases! :D

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Focusing on Yuen Long once more one year on

have much (sad) meaning for Hong Kongers

The feelings are still very raw one year on

One year ago today, much of Hong Kong watched aghast on live stream as well as videos posted on various websites and social media platforms as a bunch of thugs attacked people who happened to be at the wrong place and the wrong time: namely, Yuen Long MTR station late one Sunday night.  The day after, I was in shock and filled with anger.  Those feelings have persisted to this very day: this not least because justice has most definitely not (yet) been served and, also, because, still more evidence of police misconduct (or, at the very least, dereliction of duty) that night has come to light in recent days.

Here's a link to a great investigative video about police (in)actions in Yuen Long that evening by public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK)'s Hong Kong Connection team which aired just last week.  (For those, who prefer to read a summary of it, go here.)  Thanks to their efforts, it's come to be known -- and the police have belatedly admitted -- that there were plainclothes police officers at the scene when the mob of attackers -- clad predominantly in white shirts -- gathered in the vicinity of Yuen Long MTR station in a manner which plainly was unusual and suspicious. 

In the days since the RTHK report was broadcast, there has been still more findings that make people further distrust and not respect the police.  Among the upsetting revelations: that the police had put the victims and suspects of the attack the same room before an identification parade and read the victims’ names out loud, exposing their identities.

Something else that might make your blood boil is the realization that the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) concluded earlier this year that the police did not collude with the armed gang that attacked passengers at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21st, 2019. And this not entirely unexpected conclusion on the supposed police watchdog's part is why, for many months now, one of the Hong Kong protestors' five demands is for there to be an independent investigation of police conduct. 

On the one year anniversary of those disturbing events that upset Hong Kongers so much that many of us were unable to sleep that night, here's also sharing what Professor Clifford Stott -- one of those international experts hired to advise the IPCC, only to resign after realizing its limitations -- noted in a recent Tweet: "[W]hat is most significant about Yuen Long is not merely [Hong Kong Police Force] failures, which are self evident, but the fact this incident led to a catastrophic decline in public perception of police legitimacy. Thus police inaction in turn amplified & further radicalised the protests."  

In Yuen Long today, a number of brave souls turned up to voice their dissent and called for justice for the victims of the mob attack and for Hong Kongers to never forget what happened in that northwestern New Territories town on July 21st last year.  In contrast to a year ago, the police elected to go for a show of strength there today: with some 200 riot police officers being at the scene to do such as stop a few lawmakers from holding a press conference in the area as well as clear a mall connected to Yuen Long MTR station of protestors and journalists

At times like these, I must admit to wondering how the (relatively) good apples among the Hong Kong police feel about what's going on -- not only in Hong Kong at large but among their brethren.  Actually, I also find myself wanting to know whether there are any good cops left in Hong Kong; this especially in light of some 500 officers having quit the police force in the past year (or, to be precise, between last June and this past March) -- including the host of Police Report TV program jointly produced by the police and RTHK.  (Incidentally, it was announced earlier last week that this weekly program will have its final episode this August; it first went on air in 1973, 47 years ago.)

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Wuhan coronavirus surge is threatening Hong Kong's freedoms as well as Hong Kongers' health

All looks well from a distance but notice the gray blocks 
on the bricked surfaces?  They are painted over graffiti

 And yes, protest graffiti keeps on reappearing despite the 
best efforts of the authorities to make them disappear!

Hong Kong recorded its highest daily tally of new Wuhan coronavirus cases to date yesterday, with a total of 108 confirmed infections; of which only 25 were imported and, really disturbingly, the source of 48 are unknown.  The numbers fell to 66 new local transmissions and seven imported cases today -- but Hong Kongers are by no means feeling all that assured or safe from this third wave which seemingly came out of nowhere just a few days after Hong Kong went for three weeks without a single recorded local coronavirus infection.

Looking back to that day when we were celebrating going for 21 consecutive days without recording a local coronavirus infection though, it seems that the warning signs were actually there due to that being the very day when a pilot was confirmed to have been infected by the Wuhan coronavirus and many of us got to realizing that he was -- and other flight crew were -- exempt from the coronavirus testing and quarantine measures that we thought were fully protecting us.  But it was only yesterday that we got to discovering how long is the list of arrivals to Hong Kong exempt from testing and quarantine

Among those exempt from compulsory quarantine arrangements if they come to Hong Kong from Mainland China, Macau and Taiwan: Cross-boundary goods vehicle drivers and necessary accompanying personnel; government officials carrying out governmental duties; staff of Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse and livestock importers residing in the Mainland; directors or executives of companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange who travel from Mainland China to Hong Kong (or vice versa) "for essential business activities"; and Secondary 3 to 5 students of Hong Kong schools who are officially Hong Kong residents but actually reside in Mainland China.  

Altogether, there are a total of 33 categories of people who qualify for this exemption -- which surely makes for a not insignificant number of individuals all told!  And despite their not being explicitly mentioned in that list, I have a feeling that the new occupants of the Metropark Hotel in Tai Hang also are/were exempt from coronavirus testing and quarantine after they arrived in Hong Kong from Mainland China.  

Among other notable recent case clusters: a family living in disciplined services quarters (i.e., police quarters) with nine members infected after eating at a restaurant in Kwai Fong (as opposed to Lan Kwai Fong); and attendees at a "Handover celebration dinner" on July 9th (who were singing and dancing without masks at the venue rather than just eating and drinking).  Though, for sheer numbers, the biggest cluster is currently centered in Tsz Wan Shan district, with transmission centers there including a number of restaurants and at least one elderly care home.

Consequently, Hong Kongers who value democracy have one more reason to wear a mask these days.  In short: "Wear a mask in July so you can vote in September."  Let's not give the government an excuse to cancel or postpone the elections (however flimsy it can seem to rational individuals).  And while we're at it, let's not give them justification to impose a hard lockdown on Hong Kong too

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The third -- and most serious to date -- Wuhan coronavirus wave in Hong Kong

An extra cautious police officer in a part of Hong Kong
that has recently recorded Wuhan coronavirus cases

Way more chilled people in a part of the city where at least
 one office has suspected Wuhan coronavirus cases among its staffers

The nomination period for September's Legislative Council elections opened today, the day after Hong Kong's legislative body's tumultous sixth term came to an end yesterday.  It remains to be seen though which, and how many, of the candidates put forward by various political parties will be allowed to actually run for office; with there being much speculation -- even expectation -- that many of the winners of last weekend's democratic primaries (including incumbent Legislative Councillors like Roy Kwong, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Ray Chan) will be disqualified pretty much right from the start by the returning officers assigned to the task

When that happens, further fuel will be added to Hong Kong's political fire.  And it shouldn't go unnoticed that one of the democratic hopefuls, Tam Tak-chi, was arrested yesterday on one of those ridiculous "incitement to take part in an unlawful assembly" charges.  Also, that, also yesterday, the police went once again onto the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) -- this time to search its student union office and seized computers from there; apparently because they suspect members of the university's archery club of having attacked them during the siege of PolyU last November.

For now though, much attention has turned back to the Wuhan coronavirus -- which has been with us since January, and whose third wave has now hit Hong Kong with a vengeance.  This is not least since today, Hong Kong recorded 64 new Wuhan coronavirus infections (bringing the current tally to 1,777) and one more death (to bring the total now up to 12).  In doing so, the territory passed a sad milestone: the total number of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) cases recorded in the territory (1,755; back in 2003-2004).

Since Wednesday, the territory's most sweeping social distancing restrictions have been in force in a bid to stem the Wuhan coronavirus tide in Hong Kong.  While it's (still) far from the kind of lockdown that the likes of hard hit Italy and worried Malaysia have endured for a time, it has reinforced for many the notion that the situation we're currently in is a serious one.  In short: we need to really buckle down to control this terrible thing which Hong Kong had managed to keep out of elderly care homes and kept from infecting any medical personnel until this month.

While walking in my old neighborhood earlier today, I caught sight of a police officer dressed unusually.  Not only was he not in riot gear but he also was wearing the kind of plastic face shield and latex gloves that I'm expect more to see on medical personnel along with the now pretty standard surgical mask.  Seeing an ambulance driving away from the scene, I surmised that he had been called to the scene of a (suspected) coronavirus case; which, if confirmed, would make for there being a cluster of them in that particular area (since at least one case has recently been reported there).

Since they had their office nearby, I decided to drop in and say "hi" to a couple of friends who work but don't live in the area.  Over the course of our conversation, the pair conveyed to me their fear of being close to what might end up being declared a coronavirus "hot spot" by telling me that they no longer dare to eat takeout food from, as well as in, eateries in the area!  Instead, they've been bringing their lunches from home and going straight home for dinner; neither of which were all that usual practices for them.

In contrast, there are people who still don't seem to think twice about going out drinking and socializing as well as for meals and pretty much everything else besides.  I honestly hadn't realized this until I walked passed by the section of Central near the Discovery Bay and Park Island ferry piers a couple of days ago and saw a bunch of people hanging out in close proximity to one another, and mask-less too because they were there to drink as well as socialize!

Something else I had not expected to see was that the bar located in the area was still operating (since bars are among the establishments that have been ordered to close for at least one week starting this past Wednesday).  I am guessing that it's less because they're classified as a restaurant because they do serve food as well as drinks and more because they're considered a takeaway place.  

Frankly, if they were closed, those wanting a drink in the area could just go the stores in the ferry piers that sell alcohol along with snacks and other sundry items.  Still, I must admit my surprise that those unconcerned waterfront drinkers appear to have escaped the criticism of the likes of the bars and bar patrons of Peel Street back in March, when the onset of the second coronavirus wave was associated with bar goers -- and the attention of the authorities too! 

Rather, this time around, the newsmakers are those who refuse to wear their masks on public transportation -- as is now the required case.  This is particularly so since some of those who have refused to do so have pulled out weapons when asked to put on masks (for the protection of themselves and others)!  A question: what kind of person carries a cleaver onto a bus, never mind would wield it at police officers called to the scene as well as his fellow passengers and the bus driver?  And what too of the first man arrested for not wearing a mask on public transportation -- who "happened" to have a wooden pole with him to threaten people with while on the MTR?! 

For those readers of this blog who don't live in Hong Kong: please trust me when I tell you that it's really not normal for Hong Kongers to carry weapons of any sort with them at pretty much all times!  Hence my wondering if those anti-mask men are the same category of people as those who appeared outside an MTR station last September and attacked pro-democracy protestors with foldable stools as well as long sticks, and their fists and feet!