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Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
Time For Barristers To Wake Up
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Time For Barristers To Wake Up

Gu Minkang, Council Member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies, in Hong Kong Commercial Daily (February 11, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Hong Kong Bar Association)

Time For Barristers To Wake Up

The Hong Kong Bar Association has stirred up controversy yet again by electing as its chairman Paul Harris, a British citizen with political ties. Harris represented the UK’s Liberal Democrats as an Oxford City councillor between 2018 to 2021, during which time he expressed support for the Hong Kong protests. In 1995, Harris founded the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, which has received support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the US.

The Bar Association was established in accordance with the Hong Kong Societies Ordinance. Article 8 of the Ordinance stipulates that if an officer of a society “reasonably believes that the prohibition of the operation or continued operation of a society or a branch is necessary in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”, they then “may recommend to the Secretary for Security to make an order prohibiting the operation or continued operation of the society or the branch”. Hong Kong barristers should therefore call for Harris to resign as chairman.

Due to "one country, two systems", it is possible for foreigners to chair the Bar Association. The association, however, check the political background and character of the chairman candidates to ensure that those who are "anti-China” cannot hold such positions. At the same time, the government should consider setting up necessary "safety valves".

This decision also has major bearing on the election of Hong Kong judges, who are elected in accordance with the Judicial Officers Recommendation Committee Ordinance. Under normal circumstances, the chairman of the Bar Association serves as member of the committee. To prevent persons with political positions from exerting undue influence on the committee, it is necessary for the government to refrain from appointing individuals like Harris.


“Chinese” and “Hong Konger” Identities Not As Mutually Exclusive As Before
Monday, May 3, 2021
“Chinese” and “Hong Konger” Identities Not As Mutually Exclusive As Before

Francis Lee Lap-fung, Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, Chinese University of Hong Kong, in Ming Pao (February 1, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)

“Chinese” and “Hong Konger” Identities Not As Mutually Exclusive As Before

The Hong Kong Institute of Public Opinion has published its latest report on identity. According to the 2019 survey, 55.4 percent of respondents described themselves as a “Hong Konger”, while only 10.9 percent believed that they were “Chinese”, and 32.3 percent chose a mixed identity. In 2020, the proportion of people who chose "Hong Konger" dropped to 44.2 percent, while the proportion of people who chose "Chinese" rose slightly to 15.1 percent. These survey results may be welcomed by the government, yet it should be noted that among the 18 to 39-year-old citizens, more than 70 percent of the people still identified as a "Hong Konger".

When citizens were asked to score their Hong Kong and Chinese identities separately, the score for Chinese identity had fallen from 57.3 points to 54.9 between 2019 and 2020. Hong Kong identity scored much higher at 82.6 points in 2019 but fell to 78.7 in 2020. In the first ten years after the handover, there existed a significant positive correlation and a complementary relationship between these two scores (i.e., those who identified themselves strongly as Hong Kong people were more likely to view themselves as Chinese).

This complementary relationship had diminished in recent years and was no longer present in the 2018 survey, particularly among young people aged between 18-39 years old, where a strong Hong Kong identity correlated with a weak Chinese identity, making the two identities mutually exclusive. In 2020, the “Hong Konger” identity has declined. Yet, this has not resulted an increase in the identity score for “Chinese”. Meanwhile, the two identities of “Hong Konger” and “Chinese” are now not as mutually exclusive as before, suggesting that some citizens feel that Hong Kong is becoming more and more "mainlandized".


Beijing Now Controls the Decision-Making Power
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Beijing Now Controls the Decision-Making Power

Chan King-cheung, veteran journalist, in Ming Pao (January 6, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)

Beijing Now Controls the Decision-Making Power

The Chinese government took the initiative to establish Hong Kong’s national security law in 2020. This represents a reshuffle with Beijing now completely controlling the decision-making power of the entire special administrative region (SAR). Some believe that this was the result of the months of protests in Hong Kong against the extradition bill. Looking back at developments over the past few years, however, there were several early signs that pointed to this development.

In 2014, Beijing published a white paper which asserted that the central government has "comprehensive jurisdiction" over Hong Kong. According to the interpretation of mainland scholars, comprehensive jurisdiction refers to a sovereign state over its territory. Beijing clearly stated that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is limited to that which the central government grants.

Since the introduction of the National Security Law, Hong Kong has formally become part of the entire mainland system. Even in the economic, trade and financial fields, it is necessary to cooperate with national policies and safeguard national security. The culture of officialdom will also gradually shift from the traditional British civil-service system to the "leading cadre" model of mainland China.

Many Hong Kong people are now considering emigrating as the SAR has become increasingly unrecognizable. Hong Kong has traditionally been a bridge between the mainland and the West. Today, Hong Kong has taken a supporting role to the mainland. If this continues, Hong Kong will lose its former glory and its prospects are dire.



When Will The Government Stop Using the Emergency Law?
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
When Will The Government Stop Using the Emergency Law?

Allan Au Ka-lun, journalist, in Apple Daily (December 24, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Jimmy Siu / Shutterstock.com)

When Will The Government Stop Using the Emergency Law?

Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal (CFA) has ruled that the government's decision to use the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO), a colonial-era law, to ban face masks at demonstrations and public meetings during the height of the 2019 pro-democracy protests was constitutional and aimed to prevent any gathering from deteriorating into violence.

Pro-democracy activists had sought a judicial review on the grounds that the emergency law gave the government too much power. The CFA, however, concluded that the Legislative Council (Legco), the Basic Law and the judicial system could still effectively "restrict" government powers. But this statement is out of touch for thinking that Legco is a normal legislative body, ignoring that it has always been weak in checks and balances, and has become more of a rubber stamp.

The strangest part of the judgment was where the CFA discussed whether the decision to ban facemasks was constitutional and reasonable. This, however, relates to the specific "emergency" period in 2019 and today, more than a year later, there is no such situation in Hong Kong. Yet the law remains in place. This is clearly excessive and disproportionate, and the CFA has failed to deal with this issue.

How long will the Hong Kong government keep invoking the ERO? The power to abolish the mask law is in the hands of Legco and government.


For the Foreseeable Future, Global Financial Center Status is Secure
Thursday, February 18, 2021
For the Foreseeable Future, Global Financial Center Status is Secure

Shih Wing-ching, Chief Executive, Centaline Group, in am730 (December 16, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Alejandro Reyes)

For the Foreseeable Future, Global Financial Center Status is Secure

Opposition figures who have fled overseas continue to lobby Western governments to sanction Hong Kong in the belief that if Hong Kong’s global financial center status would be threatened and the Special Administrative Region (SAR) government would be forced to give in. Furthermore, they believe that if Hong Kong loses this position, it will become a burden to China. 

Beijing understands that the various restrictive measures adopted by the US in the past have not been effective and have sometimes even backfired. For example, when the US announced measures to restrict Chinese companies from listing in the US, many Chinese companies decided to list in Hong Kong instead. Many Chinese companies then chose Hong Kong as their secondary listing market. This resulted in a substantial increase in trading volume on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Financial circles in the US are now starting to worry that New York's status as an international financial center cannot be maintained without Chinese firms being allowed to go public in the US.

Chinese companies have a huge domestic market, impressive returns and strong competitiveness in the international market. Investors will not give up investing in Chinese companies simply because of the opposition of the US government. For this reason, many international-level investment banks expect that funds will gradually flow out of the US market and into the Chinese market (including Hong Kong). This scenario is completely different from Hong Kong's losing its status as a financial center.

Ultimately, financial centers respond to the real economy. As long as Hong Kong can continue to provide better property-rights protection, a freer trading environment, and a higher level of rule of law, Hong Kong's status as a global financial center is safe for the foreseeable future.


Are Young People Rebellious?
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Are Young People Rebellious?

Dr Chan Chi-kit, Associate Professor, School of Communication, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, in Ming Pao Daily (December 10, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Jonathan van Smit)

Are Young People Rebellious?

Recent social movements have seen the youth rush to the front line. Now, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and shifts in the political and legal environment, social movements have temporarily cooled down. This provides a chance to consider whether Hong Kong youth are really so rebellious.

Social scientists have long studied whether young people are more rebellious in contemporary society. Generally, the youth of each generation hold different characteristics depending on their collective memories and values. In February 2019, researchers at the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies analyzed polling data from 1998 to 2017 on attitudes towards government performance. They found that only from 2010 onwards did Hong Kong youth’s evaluation drop to levels significantly lower than that of the adult group. This coincided with the continuous wave of social movements led by young people over the past 10 years.

A political scholar has described how the recent wave of social movements in Hong Kong is a result of decades of political transformation and social reforms. This has cultivated a "defensive" civil society where citizens may not usually actively participate in politics, but once they feel a sense of crisis, they will fight back.

The analyst made two further observations: First, feelings of threat and danger were high, with everyone reacting to some desire to hold on to some of value of Hong Kong. Second, a feeling of "relative deprivation” emerged from the sense of powerlessness in light of sudden, profound changes within society. While these observations are not specific to the youth, they can help us better understand the motivations of Hong Kong’s youth as they marched on the streets in 2019.


Are There Employment Opportunities For Youth In The Greater Bay Area?
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Are There Employment Opportunities For Youth In The Greater Bay Area?

Shih Wing-ching, Chief Executive, Centaline Group, in am730 (December 1, 2020) 

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)

Are There Employment Opportunities For Youth In The Greater Bay Area?

In her policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor proposed an employment scheme in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area for newly graduated Hong Kong youths. The scheme has a total of 2,000 places, 80 percent in general roles and 20 percent in innovation and technology. The monthly salary will be at least HK$18,000 (US$2,308) and HK$26,000 ($3,333), respectively. Participating companies will be able to receive salary subsidies from the SAR government amounting to HK$10,000 (US$1,282) and HKD18,000, respectively.

The chief executive’s scheme appears to be a practical arrangement, designed to attract young people to go to the mainland and broaden their work experience. After all, the mainland market is both larger and more competitive than Hong Kong. As such, Hong Kong employees should be able to develop their skills faster. These opportunities can only be provided under an environment of rapid economic growth. 

In recent years, however, Hong Kong has been affected by the Western trend of resistance to China. Many young people are reluctant to consider the mainland in their career plans. This may explain why the government is willing to provide salary subsidies as an incentive for Hong Kong youths. 

The salary subsidies will mean that a starting salary could be 50 percent higher than the average starting salary in Hong Kong and twice the average starting salary in the mainland. This may sound like a good incentive but may not be sustainable in the long run. Unlike a few decades ago, today’s young mainland generation now outperform their Hong Kong counterparts in terms both knowledge and practical problem-solving ability. It is uncertain how many companies would be genuinely interested in hiring young Hong Kong people without receiving any government subsidies. 

Instead of subsidizing the employees, the Hong Kong government should subsidize employers to open positions up to youth while offering them the same wage as their mainland counterparts. Ultimately, if you work in the mainland, as long as you work hard, the pay will not be significantly worse than in Hong Kong. In addition, the mainland market is large so corporate profits may ultimately be much greater than that of Hong Kong.


The Greater Bay Area Should Adopt its Own Health Code
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
The Greater Bay Area Should Adopt its Own Health Code

Wong Kam Fai, Associate Dean (External Affairs), Faculty of Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and former president of Hong Kong Information Technology Joint Council, in Hong Kong Economic Times (June 25, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: N509FZ)

The Greater Bay Area Should Adopt its Own Health Code

The sudden outbreak of Covid-19 has severely affected the lives of Hong Kong people. Quarantine policies and travel restrictions hindered exchanges and cooperation within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA).

There are nearly 300,000 Hong Kong people working in Guangdong Province and nearly 900,000 immigrants from the mainland in Hong Kong. Many people travel between both places, living in one and working in the other. Although under the "one country, two systems" policy, Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macau belong to three different administrative regions, those that travel frequently between the three places, perceive themselves as "Bay Area" people who should work together to create value for the GBA.

Since February, to restore economic and social order, a "health code" program was launched on the mainland. The system relies on the national integrated government service platform to carry out data sharing on epidemic prevention health information systems in various provinces and cities. Without such a code, Hong Kong lags the rest of the country.

The Hong Kong Government should launch a health code as soon as possible. This will facilitate the relaxing of the 14-day mandatory isolation and the restarting of customs clearance operations. From the mainland’s experience, the health code has played an irreplaceable and important role in the balance between continuous epidemic control and the resumption of normal life.

The Greater Bay Area, the 13th largest economy in the world by GDP, has not been able to lift the cross-border movement restrictions, even though the domestic epidemic situation is under control. A Bay Area health code is urgently required in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau to protect the health of people in the GBA. This will support the potential of the GBA by allowing Bay Area people to pass across the border while protecting their health.


How Young People View the Government’s Handling of Covid-19
Friday, June 19, 2020
How Young People View the Government’s Handling of Covid-19

Justin Chan Long Hin, associate researcher, MWYO, in Hong Kong Economic Journal (June 16, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Jonathan van Smit)

How Young People View the Government’s Handling of Covid-19

In late May, MWYO commissioned a survey of 509 18-34-year-olds to determine how they rate the government’s handling of the epidemic. The results were mixed. When they were asked to evaluate the government's overall anti-epidemic measures, only about a quarter thought the government had done a good job. This may be due to the distrust in the government among young people that had increased in the months before the pandemic.

The survey showed that 81 percent of young people believed that the closure of schools was helpful, while 69 percent believed that the isolation of travelers and close contacts of diagnosed cases was useful. In addition, 52 percent saw benefits in restricting or suspending the operation of certain industries. Only 20 percent of the young people interviewed believed that the government’s distributing free reusable masks was effective. This suggests that the earlier the government implemented certain measures, the greater the support for them.

The survey also found that those whose employment conditions had deteriorated were more dissatisfied with the overall performance of the government. If the government is able to mitigate the impact of the epidemic on the economy, it will likely boost the positive perception of its handling of the outbreak among those who are employed.

In terms of financial support measures, 57 percent of the young people surveyed believed that the government played a role in alleviating youth unemployment and economic pressure. A smaller number of young people (45 percent) thought that the government's distribution of HK$10,000 to each resident had the same effect, suggesting scepticism of the direct cash transfer approach. Overall, only 19 percent of the young people surveyed believed that the government's overall economic support measures were successful.


The Purpose of the "Stir-Fry" Strategy?
Monday, June 8, 2020
The Purpose of the "Stir-Fry" Strategy?

Nelson Chow Wing-sun, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Social Work and Social Administration of The University of Hong Kong, in Ming Pao (June 5, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: renfeng tang)

The Purpose of the "Stir-Fry" Strategy?

As the Covid-19 epidemic has been gradually brought under control, protests have reappeared under the “stir-fry” strategy. The public were not aware what this strategy really entailed until the National People's Congress passed Hong Kong’s National Security Law. In layman's terms, the stir-fry strategy simply means "If we burn, you burn with us". Those who promote this strategy seek to create chaos in society as a means to achieve their overall aim or simply to force those in power to make concessions.

No matter how much its opponents attack the government, the government will simply continue to fight violence with violence. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has made it clear that the government will not set up an independent investigation committee into alleged police brutality. While Hong Kong people are tired of chaos, they recognize that this strategy will not adequately aid their cause.

If the strategy aims to support the attempt by the pan-democrats to win the majority of seats in Legislative Council elections and then force the government into implementing universal suffrage, this would essentially involve forcing your opposition into a corner. Undoubtedly, universal suffrage is what Hong Kong citizens desire, but would they be happy with the pan-democrats being able to veto any legislation? This would certainly put the Hong Kong government and the Chinese central government in a precarious and unsettling position.

Pursuing this strategy would involve directly opposing the national security law and would clearly carry anti-central government undertones. While the strategy may be supported by many Hong Kong people – “Let's jump off the cliff together" is a powerful statement – is this really in line with the wellbeing of Hong Kong people?


Britain’s role in the “East Berlinization” of Hong Kong
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Britain’s role in the “East Berlinization” of Hong Kong

Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations and Director of the Comparative Governance and Public Policy Research Centre at Hong Kong Baptist University, in Ming Pao (June 1, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Jules Cahn)

Britain’s role in the “East Berlinization” of Hong Kong

In 1996, then-British prime minister John Major stated that “if in the future there were any suggestion of a breach of the [Sino-British] Joint Declaration, we would mobilize the international community and pursue every legal or other avenue open to us.” To examine how seriously the United Kingdom has remained committed to Hong Kong, we must look at its actions rather than words.

Over the years, the China policy of British governments has focused on economic and trade relations. When they were prime minister, David Cameron and Theresa May happily talked about how London and Beijing would push bilateral relations into a "golden age" through collaboration in the high-speed rail, energy technology or higher education sectors and Belt and Road Initiative projects. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also takes a friendly attitude toward China and places economic interests first. While the US and EU are taking a stronger stance on China, the UK has maintained cooperation and dialogue. But these interactions have not helped improve the governance of Hong Kong.

In the post-Brexit era, the UK is unable to exert influence in EU decision-making. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, however, the UK has applied pressure on China by raising the issue of Hong Kong. More can be done.

The British Parliament should give Hong Kong a greater voice in formulating policies and countermeasures to the situation, while MPs should demand accountability from the UK government. Finally, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office should conduct a more in-depth and detailed assessment of Hong Kong’s autonomy and human-rights situation.

The UK should not unconditionally accept Hong Kong as a regular partner after its "East Berlinization" by China takes place. Instead, the UK should provide ongoing support and impose sanctions on anyone who undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy and human rights.


Press Freedom Ranking Drops to New Low
Monday, May 18, 2020
Press Freedom Ranking Drops to New Low

Clement So York-kee, Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication and Associate Dean (Student Affairs) of the Faculty of Social Science, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, in Ming Pao (May 14, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Iris Tong/Voice of America)

Press Freedom Ranking Drops to New Low

Press freedom is both a basic right and an important social indicator. The Hong Kong Journalists Association recently released the latest Hong Kong Press Freedom Index survey results, which reported the lowest score since its inception. The survey is divided into two parts: the public’s assessment of 41.9 (the closer to zero the greater the press freedom) and the media’s score of 36.2. The scores have been declining in recent years.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontiers, or RSF, in French) publishes the annual World Press Freedom Index. According to data for 2020, Hong Kong ranked just 80th out of 180 countries and regions surveyed, down seven places from the previous year and a record low. Hong Kong ranked 18th in the world in 2002, when the index debuted.

Last year’s protests presented a crisis in both politics and the press. Journalists faced three specific problems while working: personal threats while conducting interviews, difficulties in obtaining the information needed for reporting, and insufficient laws to protect them while doing their job.

In addition, violence has become increasingly problematic and frequent. This year’s survey showed that 65 percent of the 222 journalists interviewed had been violently treated by police or civilians an average of four times.

Political disputes are intensifying, the economy is facing difficulties due to the impact of Covid-19, and the society is under increased pressure. Meanwhile, the press is facing both political and economic pressures as well as self-censorship. While Hong Kong must work hard to get out of its predicament, we must also pay attention to the freedom of the press.


Are Protesters Fighting for Justice – or Just for the Sake of Winning?
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Are Protesters Fighting for Justice – or Just for the Sake of Winning?

識鐵 (a pen name), psychiatrist, in Ming Pao (May 11, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Etan Liam)

Are Protesters Fighting for Justice – or Just for the Sake of Winning?

The Covid-19 pandemic has subsided and the mood has become cautiously optimistic. But Hong Kong people have not been able to relax. Even after the pandemic, tears in society remain.

Over the years, politicians have often talked about "democracy", "freedom" and "justice". There are many who remain dissatisfied with the government and stand on the side of the protesters. They may believe they are fighting for democracy, freedom and justice. Whether their actions truly reflect this is a different question.

It may be more appropriate to understand these actions through the concept of “brotherhood”, which is deeply rooted in Hong Kong culture. It is an emotional rather than rational idea. Legal procedures are too complicated and civilized negotiations are perceived to be useless, making it is easy for society to resort to violence. Meanwhile, protestors insist on their five demands more for the sake of winning and refusing to compromise with the government.

Brotherhood values loyalty over justice. The act of choosing to support a certain party requires never turning your back on them. Today, some are even claiming to be "real Hong Kongers" to separate themselves from anyone that disagrees with them. This cognitive shift from the pursuit of justice to a self-proclaimed "justice" is dangerous. We should define good and bad through one’s nature not by ideology. Those who truly respect justice will know that they are not above the law and will not claim to be the executors of justice.

Hong Kong people can be seen as children of the brotherhood. While a brotherhood society can be both humane and united, we should not confuse it with justice. In view of Hong Kong’s current situation with the upcoming Legislative Council elections, will we simply choose to fight – or instead strive together for Hong Kong's interests?


Centrists Have No Room For Survival in the Current Political Climate
Thursday, May 7, 2020
Centrists Have No Room For Survival in the Current Political Climate

Kam Man-fung, director, Hong Kong Association of Young Commentators, and district councillor (2016-19), in Ming Pao (April 29, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Tksteven)

Centrists Have No Room For Survival in the Current Political Climate

A number of centrists have emerged through Hong Kong’s recent district council elections. They argue that Hong Kong is too polarized and needs to find a new “middle way”. But can Hong Kong still accommodate centrists today?

Many individuals certainly have a centrist approach to politics. From "left or right of center" to "pro-integration” to “status-quo” to “pro-independence", Hong Kong society has varying levels of degrees of agreement or disagreement on different issues. Even though an individual may hold economic interests in the mainland, they could still have reservations about the Chinese government and yet be neither “pro China” nor “anti China”.

Inside the Legislative Council, this is not the case. Yet Hong Kong was not always so polarized. Even though politicians may hold different voting priorities on a range of issues from economics to LGBT rights, today, following the anti-extradition-bill protest movement, Hong Kong is now polarized – pro or anti China. In this atmosphere, all other important issues that our society faces are overshadowed.

Nevertheless, some still believe that centrists can survive in today’s political climate. This is naïve. You need only ask a so-called centrist a number of revealing questions – for example, whether they would support the immediate passing of Article 23 (internal security) legislation. If they were opposed, then the pro-China faction would view them as anti China rather than as centrist, and vice-versa.

As the Hong Kong Legislative Council election approaches, centrist candidates must think carefully about how they will respond to such questions. It is necessary to understand that the issues facing Hong Kong today are inherently political. And in this political struggle, centrists simply have no room for survival.


As the Virus Spreads, Has Calm Returned to Hong Kong?
Monday, April 20, 2020
As the Virus Spreads, Has Calm Returned to Hong Kong?

Kevin Wong Tze-wai, Research Associate, and Victor Zheng Wan-tai, Assistant Director and Director of Research, Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, in Ming Pao (April 17, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

As the Virus Spreads, Has Calm Returned to Hong Kong?

There has been a marked reduction in social conflict since the spread of Covid-19. Does this mean that society has just temporarily paused their political disputes to fight the epidemic – or have the government’s measures to counter the epidemic successfully restored public opinion?

According to a recent opinion survey, the Chief Executive approval rating and the level of public trust in the government have stopped declining. While her popularity remains low, the Chief Executive ‘s score increased marginally to 25.0 percent from 23.4 percent.

Nevertheless, the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak has clearly failed to restore public confidence. A survey in March found that 60.5 percent of respondents believed that the administration’s performance was “quite bad” or “very bad’, while 71.5 percent felt that their response was “insufficient” or “very insufficient”. The data suggests a correlation between those who already had a favorable opinion of the government or are pro-establishment and those who view its handling of Covid-19 crisis positively.

There is consensus across the political spectrum on the issue of controlling the spread of Covid-19. Supporters of social movements understand the importance of control measures and so there has been a temporary shift from protesting to battling the virus. Ultimately, society has no choice but to stay at home. The social divides revealed through the anti-extradition law amendment bill action have remained unresolved.

Today’s social calm is no doubt only temporary. The Chief Executive and the government's popularity have not yet picked up significantly. Protests will resume. As such, the government should also focus on repairing divisions within society. While handling of Covid-19 is putting pressure on an exhausted government, this should be seen as an opportunity to take a breath and then deal with the serious social conflict.