Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, who has been rather quiet on the pandemic front since the supposedly vanquished Wuhan coronavirus began rampaging through Chinese cities again, on Wednesday gave “important instructions” to the nominally autonomous Hong Kong government to get its coronavirus outbreak under control.
China’s state-run Global Times naturally portrayed this as grandfatherly Xi giving some wise and loving advice to the government of Hong Kong executive Carrie Lam, who was in turn portrayed as grateful for Xi’s offer of assistance:
Xi conveyed his high attention on Hong Kongs recent COVID-19 surge and his kind care for the Hong Kong people to SAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam through Vice Premier Han Zheng, Takungpao reported on Wednesday.
Xi said the SAR government should assume its primary responsibility in the epidemic control work, mobilize all available resources, and take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of the Hong Kong people and the overall stability of Hong Kong society, the report said.
Lam said that she would continue to lead the SAR government to make full use of the support of the central government and make an all-out effort to fight the epidemic as the top priority for Hong Kong, reported Wenweipo on Wednesday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed #HKSAR govt should prioritize its task to control local #COVID19 epidemic, and mobilize all the resources to ensure HK people’s safety & health, saying central govt agencies and local govts should fully support & help HK, HK media reported pic.twitter.com/BUfHd3ak9E
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) February 16, 2022
The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) noted that Chinese government websites and state media outlets were curiously reluctant to post what Xi actually said, even though his pronouncements are normally quoted with loving attention. Instead, Chinese Communist Party sources merely reported on Vice Premier Han Zheng relaying Xi’s commands to Lam after a meeting between Hong Kong and Chinese officials on Saturday that apparently did not go very well.
Lam repeated on Monday that she does not intend to order a citywide lockdown, even though the omicron variant is generating thousands of cases and stressing Hong Kong’s medical system.
“The scale and speed of the spread of the virus has overwhelmed our capacity in the fight against the pandemic. The situation is very serious,” Lam said.
Lam insisted “zero-Covid” was still her goal, rather than learning to live with the coronavirus while mitigating its impact.
“We have no plans whatsoever to impose a complete, wholesale lockdown,” she stated, although she said smaller targeted lockdowns of specific neighborhoods could be imposed while coronavirus testing is under way.
One of the Hong Kong officials who met with representatives from China on Saturday was Chief Secretary John Lee. On Tuesday, Lee went into self-isolation after his domestic helper tested positive for Chinese coronavirus. Lee reportedly sat next to Lam at a meeting Tuesday morning, raising concerns he might have infected her.
[Recap] BREAKING: Hong Kong Chief Sec. in home quarantine after domestic worker tests positive for Covid-19https://t.co/WoPH8XICZq
— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@hkfp) February 15, 2022
“Before this outbreak, Hong Kong treated all coronavirus patients in dedicated isolation wards, but beds at hospitals and a temporary mass treatment facility near the airport have quickly filled up,” AFP reported Tuesday, adding that patients have been seen lying on stretchers outside overflowing hospitals.
Two more deaths were reported in Hong Kong on Tuesday, one of them a three-year-old girl and the other a 100-year-old with pre-existing conditions. The girl was the youngest coronavirus fatality in Hong Kong to date.
Bloomberg News on Wednesday saw Xi’s “rare intervention in local affairs” as a sign Beijing intends to strip even more of Hong Kong’s tattered autonomy. Lam could be forced to take Chinese-style authoritarian measures that could threaten “Hong Kong’s status as a global financial center” and increase the “exodus of talent” the island has been experiencing over the past few years.
“The message from Xi is especially pointed given Lam has yet to declare whether she’ll seek a second five-year term next month from a panel of 1,500 electors dominated by Beijing loyalists,” Bloomberg noted.