Home affairs chief resigns as Partygate probe concludes . . .
On Monday, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, announced the findings of the investigation into ‘Partygate,’ a 200-person birthday party in early January attended by high-level politicians. In the aftermath, Casper Tsui, Hong Kong’s home affairs secretary and a former Canadian citizen, resigned. Fourteen other scandal-ridden senior government officials, including the birthday party's host and Hong Kong's Deputy to the National People's Congress, Witman Hung, are to be reinstated despite public outrage calling for harsher discipline.
Fifth wave COVID-19 policies draw dissatisfaction . . .
In the aftermath of Partygate and the recent Cathay Pacific scandal in which Omicron-positive airline staff broke quarantine, unfavourable public opinion directed at the government and its strict pandemic response measures continues to mount. Meanwhile, Hong Kong is recording around 100 daily positive COVID-19 cases with a growing number of untraceable infections. The government's hamster-culling operation last month to avoid animal-to-human coronavirus transmission ended the lives of more than 2,200 furry critters and resulted in a widespread backlash. In a possible response to business community lobbying and public pressure, quarantine requirements are being eased for inbound travellers. Lam, meanwhile, has cancelled plans to attend the Winter Olympics' opening ceremony and deferred to Beijing for pandemic assistance citing its improved COVID-fighting experience.
Carrie Lam’s pre-election political hardship . . .
Beijing has backed Lam’s handling of embroiled officials despite lobbying from pro-establishment figures who tried to prevent Tsui’s exit. Lam’s decision to retain most officials involved in the scandal is potentially influenced by her time constraint in delivering government priorities, such as the ‘Northern Metropolis' initiative, before the March 27 Chief Executive election. Many health experts and residents in Hong Kong are hoping for a shift from the ‘zero-COVID’ policy pursued by the city’s government in line with the Chinese mainland, to a ‘living with the virus’ approach. In light of low inoculation rates amongst Hong Kong’s seniors, Lam defended the ‘zero-COVID’ policy and said she “can't bear to see elderly people die in the hospital.” As popular sentiment wavers, Lam’s administration is tasked with a considerable challenge to regain public confidence and manage the current fifth wave without displeasing Beijing.
- Bloomberg: Hong Kong's Covid-zero strategy is on the brink of collapse
- Reuters: Hong Kong government offers hamster reparations in Covid fight
- South China Morning Post: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam asks Beijing to remove home affairs chief from post after scandal surrounding Omicron-hit birthday bash