The Real Aim of China’s Xi Jinping in Imposing a “Zero Covid Policy” on Hong Kong

The Real Aim of China’s Xi Jinping in Imposing a “Zero Covid Policy” on Hong Kong

Steady progress in remodeling Hong Kong’s social system under the pretext of virus containment

Article on Feb.20th by Yuji Hirata (Born in 1963. After graduating from Waseda University, he worked for a manufacturer and was stationed in Korea for 3 years from 1998, and then in Hong Kong from 2003. After retiring from the manufacturer, he worked for a Hong Kong company before setting up his own business. Currently, while managing a trading company in Hong Kong, he also writes.)

The spread of the Omicron strain in Hong Kong continues unabated, with 6,116 new cases of infection on February 17, and 12,000 infected people who cannot be accommodated in medical facilities. Incredible scenes of elderly infected patients spending the night in hastily set up outdoor tents outside hospitals are unfolding.

 Although the thorough restrictions on entry into the country and the three-week-long mandatory quarantine have done much to contain the spread of the disease, the resulting lack of social tolerance for the new corona has now been exposed at once.

 In response to this situation, President Xi Jinping gave the Hong Kong government the unusual order to “take all possible measures to contain Covid. He strongly ordered the Hong Kong government to adhere to a thoroughgoing “zero Covid” policy, similar to that of China, so that Hong Kong will not become a coexistence partner with Covid as in Europe and the United States (according to a report in the pro-China media, “The Grand Gazette”, Hong Kong, dated March 16).

Rapid Spread of Infection and Medical Collapse Begins in Hong Kong

 In Hong Kong with a population of 7.4 million, 6116 new cases would be a rate of 0.083%. In Tokyo, with a population of 14 million, this translates to 11,620 new cases per day, which is close to the situation in late January when the outbreak spread rapidly.

 Considering Hong Kong’s population density and low-income residential environment, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the number of infected people could increase to the same level or even higher than in Tokyo. Since Tokyo’s peak infection rate is about 0.15% of the population, it is feared that the number of new cases in Hong Kong may soon exceed 10,000.

 The serious problem is the collapse of medical care. In addition to the absolute shortage of beds specifically for Covid patients, the number of infections among medical workers, which can be called nosocomial infection, is rapidly increasing, and some local private hospitals are closing their doors and temporarily closing their doors.

In Hong Kong, an increasing number of patients are spending time in outdoor hypothetical wards due to a lack of hospital beds.

 Eventually, measures similar to those taken in Japan, such as home quarantine for asymptomatically infected patients, will be taken, but as long as the government is committed to zero Covid, infected patients will basically be placed in strict quarantine. As a matter of urgency, the Hong Kong government plans to quarantine infected people in hotels and other lodging facilities, school dormitories, and unoccupied public housing. As in China, there is also a proposal to build field hospital-like facilities in remote areas on short notice.

 There is an absolute shortage of medical personnel and fire department staff to transport emergency patients, and China has announced that it will dispatch medical staff, including inspection personnel, to Hong Kong. It appears that Chinese medical staff who entered Hong Kong from Shenzhen have already started working at the site.

Chinese-style zero-Covid policy has been a bane.

 Although the Hong Kong government never admits it, there is no doubt that the shortage of medical personnel in Hong Kong is partly due to the exodus of people from Hong Kong overseas (the so-called migration tide) that has been continuing since the year before last.

 During the anti-Chinese protests in 2019, many medical professionals dedicated themselves as paramedics at the scene of the demonstrations. There were also protest strikes by doctors and nurses at some public hospitals. Arrests due to the suppression of the demonstrations included several active physicians.

 With the qualifications of doctors and nurses, it is relatively easy for them to find jobs even if they immigrate abroad. Moreover, many doctors in Hong Kong have graduated from university medical schools in foreign countries such as the UK, Canada, and Australia.

 Although it was good that the spread of the delta strain was prevented by strict entry restrictions and three weeks of mandatory quarantine, in the end, Hong Kong became “sterile” with zero Covid, and the preparation of “beds dedicated to Covid patients ” and other measures were put on the back burner because no new cases of infection occurred for about three months.

 The fact that Hong Kong was so focused on preventing the outbreak of new Covid patients that it had not prepared a system to deal with such outbreaks, including a rescue system, means of transporting patients, facilities to accommodate infected persons, and isolation beds, was quickly exposed. In addition to the ineptitude of the Hong Kong government, there is no doubt that there was also a “carelessness” in the awareness of the citizens and in their daily lives.

The whole area lockdown and mandatory testing of all citizens in the countdown phase

 If the number of newly infected people in Hong Kong exceeds 10,000 in the future, which would be in line with Tokyo’s peak in terms of population, it would be a very serious situation in terms of Hong Kong’s medical infrastructure and housing environment. Naturally, calls for a “Hong Kong-wide lockdown” and “mandatory testing of all citizens” have begun to emerge from within the government and from influential pro-China legislators. Rumors abound that a large number of inspection kits have been brought in from China and that Chinese inspection personnel have entered Hong Kong.

 In Hong Kong, as in China, government enforcement measures are often implemented immediately. In the past, a condominium or a building was suddenly sealed off after only a few people were infected, and residents were not allowed to leave or enter the building from the outside until all residents had been tested for the virus and the positive cases had been quarantined.

 There have been tragedies, such as when people returned home from work to find that their homes had been sealed off and they could not enter their own homes for hours, or when customers of a hair salon in a sealed off building were locked in, and were unable to return home until the lockdown was lifted the next day, spending the night in the hair salon.

 If the entire area is locked down, people will be restricted from leaving their homes and will not even be able to shop for food. Naturally, citizens are stocking up as a defensive measure, and supermarkets and other food stores have been running low on goods in recent days.

 Don Quijote (a large Japanese discount store) and the Japanese mall Aeon, both of which have operations in Hong Kong, have been forced to shut down after some of their employees became infected, and some have even closed temporarily until disinfection work and employee testing for the virus is completed.

 In addition, several truck drivers transporting goods across the border with China have been infected with the virus. As a result of the forced quarantine of a considerable number of people, including those in close contact with the virus, there has been a sudden shortage of fresh food brought in from China, and vegetables have disappeared from store shelves, or if they are available, their prices have more than doubled from normal levels.

 In China, based on a zero-Covid policy, the entire country has been locked down after only a few new positive cases, and all of its more than 10 million citizens have been subjected to mandatory testing. In reality, one only has to think about whether such measures are feasible in Japan.

 Even if one were to lock down Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, how would one physically prohibit all residents from leaving the ward, or block all roads leading to the neighboring Ota Ward or bridges over the Tama River which is the only thing that divides these two wards?

 The reason this is possible in China is that Chinese society is a centrally controlled society that differs from our common sense.

How a total lockdown is possible in China

 In China, a communist state, there is an organization (group) called a “unit” or “social district” as the base organization of society (a regional group that forms the foundation of society), and all citizens, including foreigners, are incorporated into it.

In China, all workers, except for peasants with rural households, belong to one of the “units,” including companies, schools, stores, etc., and all their lives, from income to housing, are dependent on them.

 In urban areas, the term “workplace” was also used to mean “workplace,” but what made it more than just a workplace was the fact that all areas of life, including marriage registration and travel arrangements, were dependent on or controlled by the unit. Peasants who did not belong to a unit were incorporated into the “People’s Corporation,” and under the collective ownership system, they depended on the Corporation for their livelihood, or even their very lives.

 Since the 1980s, as China began to introduce elements of capitalism and the private property system, private and foreign-owned companies have emerged, and the number of citizens in urban areas who do not belong to a “unit” has increased. In rural areas, too, there was a shift to a kind of free economy and private property system called the “production responsibility system,” and the “people’s public corporations” were dismantled.

 After these changes, regional groups called “social districts” were organized as the basis of a new social governance system, and all citizens and foreigners residing in China are now included in these groups.

 The word “sha-gu” is translated as “community” in English, and is interpreted as an organization similar to a neighborhood association or a neighborhood association in Japan, but while it is intended to provide residents with autonomy, in reality it is under the guidance and control of the “Street Administration,” the lowest level of China’s administrative system.

 In other words, the “community” functions as the smallest administrative management unit that controls and manages local residents, including foreigners.

 The administrative organization and police (public security) make full use of the “company district” in order to be able to implement such strict lockdowns and mandatory inspections of all citizens in China. TV news programs occasionally broadcast images of officials in white protective suits watching residents entering and exiting the city or detaining citizens who break regulations and leave the city.

 However, in Hong Kong, where the British system of governance is still based on a liberal economy, there is no organization that manages the “Company Territory. Even if the entire area were locked down, it would be next to impossible to completely regulate the outings of citizens, even with the current police force and all civil servants mobilized.

Foreigners under surveillance are known to the Public Security Bureau.

 In China, a social system that controls and manages all citizens is nearly complete, and even foreigners cannot escape it. As the Beijing Olympics made clear, athletes, officials, reporters, and other foreigners are under strict surveillance.

 Even before the Covid scandal, foreigners entering China were required to report their whereabouts to the competent public security authorities within 24 hours of entering the country.

 Travelers may not realize it, but all passports submitted at hotel check-in are checked for the stamp (date) of entry into China, and all copies taken are sent to the local public security. In some areas, travelers are required to fill out a form at check-in indicating where they stayed the night before and where they will go after check-in.

 In the past, such regulations were not strictly enforced, and cheap hotels in Dongguan and Shenzhen would let you stay as long as you paid a fee without showing your passport, but since the inauguration of the Xi Jinping administration, the system has been strictly enforced.

 In the past, one could buy a SIM card for a cell phone sold in the city and plug it into one’s smartphone and use it right away, but in September 2010, the system was changed to a real-name registration system, and I remember going to a China Mobile sales office and submitting my passport to complete the procedures in order to continue using my SIM card for use in China.

 When purchasing a train or bus ticket out of Shenzhen, it is now mandatory to present your passport, and your passport number and part of your name are printed on the ticket. Since personal information is converted into data, it is now possible to track one’s movements and, using the location information on one’s cell phone, one’s whereabouts can almost always be determined.

Illegal Aliens Exposed Through Corona Control in Hong Kong

 On February 17, the Hong Kong government announced its plan to test all 7.4 million Hong Kong residents for the virus three times over the month of March. Although the details of the testing have not yet been determined, it is likely that the dates will be assigned to each ID number given to all Hong Kong citizens to encourage them to take the tests.

 The vaccination record is linked to the ID number, and a health management app distributed by the Hong Kong government can instantly display the date, time, and type of vaccine administered on a smartphone. It appears that this type of app will be fully utilized.

 The Hong Kong ID system applies not only to persons born in Hong Kong, but also to Japanese and other foreigners and immigrants from China. To be precise, all foreigners who have obtained a visa and residence permit in Hong Kong and are staying in Hong Kong legally can apply for “HK Permanent Residents” status, even if they are foreign nationals, as long as they have stayed in Hong Kong legally for more than seven years and have been paying their taxes properly. If they are approved, they are legally entitled to the same permanent resident status as Hong Kong residents, and are free to start a business, change jobs, and even vote in legislative and district assembly elections.

 The IC chip in the ID card contains information such as photo data, left and right thumbprint data, and residency status, as well as information on occupation (place of employment) and occupation (place of work) with a single ID number. ), bank deposits and other assets, criminal records including traffic violations, immigration records, and all personal information.

 Thus, a driver’s license in Hong Kong does not have a photo or current address, but only an ID number, which is linked to an ID card to provide all necessary information.

 This is an extremely rational system, but there is no denying the negative aspect of all personal information being grasped by the government authorities. Needless to say, it is because of the full use of these ID numbers that a number of arrests were made over the past year after the protests.

 Whether it is compulsory vaccination of all citizens or compulsory virus testing, the process is based on ID numbers, but the problem is how to deal with those who do not have ID numbers or ID cards, in other words, those who entered Hong Kong on tourist visas and are still in Hong Kong.

 Without an ID number, they cannot even shop, and if they do not take a virus test, they will be fined up to $10,000, and if they are asked by a police officer on the street to show proof of vaccination or virus test results, they will definitely be taken to the police station and deported.

 Since Korean clubs and brothels, which were hotbeds for illegal workers, have already been banned from operating, many of those who worked as migrant workers on tourist visas will have returned to their home countries, but those who remain for whatever reason will be at great risk in the future. The Hong Kong government is killing two birds with one stone by taking countermeasures against the virus and by trying to flush out illegal immigrants.

Is Adherence to the Zero Covid Policy a Stepping Stone to Further Chineseization of Hong Kong?

 It is no exaggeration to say that the zero-Covid policy pursued by China is possible only because of China’s unique social system and thorough resident management, in other words, a controlled society that thoroughly manages each and every citizen. In other words, the imposition of this policy on Hong Kong can be read as a message from Xi Jinping to gradually introduce the “social district” system, which is still underdeveloped in Hong Kong, to flush out illegal foreigners and thoroughly manage residents.

 A true “return” of Hong Kong to China would require cleaning up the remaining colonial dregs in Hong Kong and a Westernization of the city. The ideological transformation of the people will be necessary.

 And what has gradually become clear through the Covid measures is the strengthening of administrative controls and the removal of foreigners who remain in Hong Kong illegally. The latter, in particular, is closely intertwined with the Chinese nationalism and xenophobic tendencies that underlie Hong Kong society.

 As part of the patriotic education that has been strengthened since the implementation of the National Security Law, a “Nanjing Massacre Special Class” was held in all public schools in Hong Kong in December 2021. This had never been done in Hong Kong in the past, and the content was apparently to denounce “Japanese military atrocities” based on rumors circulating on the Chinese side.

 These changes in Hong Kong will no doubt eventually have no small impact on Japanese companies and the Japanese community in Hong Kong.

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