Better safe than sorry or pandemic precaution overkill?
So much for my hope that Hong Kong's first pandemic lockdown would be its last. One day after Carrie Lam (dubiously) declared it a success and said that "ambush-style" lockdowns would be the way to go, another section of Yau Ma Tei was locked down in precisely this manner at 7pm today.
This time around, there was no advance warning that such an operation would take place. Interestingly, people are not barred from entering this lockdown zone -- though they are indeed barred from leaving it; prompting a local district councillor to ask people returning to the area this evening to help out their family members and neighbors by buying emergency supplies for them for tonight and tomorrow morning (when the lockdown order is due to be lifted).
(As was established the last time around, the food handed out by the authorities was not only of dubious quality but also often culturally insensitive and showed their lack of understanding of the conditions in which many of the area residents live. Hence, it once again falls on Hong Kongers to help and care for their fellows rather than be able to depend on the government to do so.)
Don't get me wrong: I of course would like to see the current pandemic to end. Heck, at this point in time, I'd settle for Hong Kong's fourth Wuhan coronvirus wave to come to an end. (For the record: we are currently into day 71 of this particular wave and had 64 new cases today.)
But I can't shake away the feeling that the authorities are more intent on punishing people -- or sometimes plain over-reacting -- than actually efficiently dealing with the pandemic. And reading reports in recent days that a University of Hong Kong epidemiologist had cast doubt on the effectiveness of further lockdowns in Hong Kong (after just 13 people out of more than 7,000 tested in the Jordan area at the weekend tested positive for the coronavirus) and other medical experts questioning the timing of the lockdown and whether it was the best use of resources only increases my doubts that this government knows what it's doing, with regards to combating the Wuhan coronavirus as well as just about everything else.
Beyond the battle against the coronavirus: Carrie Lam might want to tell the world that all is as well as can be in Hong Kong post implementation of China's national security law for Hong Kong. But, what with respected individuals (like Ted Hui, his wife and his parents, and Pastor Roy Chan of the Good Neighbourhood North District Church and his wife) having had their bank accounts frozen on the order of the Hong Kong government, many Hong Kongers have taken fright and sent sizable chunks of their money offshore, if not left Hong Kong themselves.
And the news today that the police have obtained the bank records of a number of pro-democracy activists without their consent is not exactly going to allay the security fears of the residents of a city often stereotyped as caring about money more than anything else (but who have also shown time and time again their willingness to help others and the pro-democracy cause, including by parting with some of their treasured money).
Further showing how abnormal the situation is in Hong Kong these days, even without factoring in that which is the result of the pandemic, is what has been happening on local university campuses in recent days. To wit: Authorities at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have doled out semester suspensions -- as well as such as six month bans against using school facilities -- to the president and internal vice-president of its student union after they held a memorial service on the half-year anniversary of Alex Chow Tsz-lok’s death; while the police went and arrested three students of, and searched three dormitories at, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) yesterday in the wake of a protest which took place on campus earlier this month, with what appeared to be the blessings and "full cooperation" of the CUHK authorities.
As historian Jeppe Mulich, whose association with a Hong Kong university seems to have ended (and is now at City, the University of London) Tweeted: "The amount of HK universities that don't just "fully cooperate with" but frequently call on the police themselves is one of the many distressing developments of this past year." One further indication of how things are like in Hong Kong's universities these days: CUHK journalism professor Lokman Tsui recently shared that "today in class a student asked me if I was concerned teaching a class on free speech".
Amazingly, his reaction to that query shows that he still retains his sense of humor. Which perhaps is a good time to remember and repeat Hong Kong Democratic Party chairman Lo Kin-hei's wise words from last July: "My thoughts on the ways of life to go through the dark ages. Stay on with what we are doing, don't let fear dominate us! And, HAVE FUN! MAKE JOKES!" Put another way: we have to laugh sometimes at the insanity of it all; otherwise, we'd break down and/or cry. :S