Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) head has said citizens should fully support the government’s universal coronavirus testing programme and condemned calls to boycott the scheme as “blind opposition.”
In a 2,637-word article written in Chinese, the EOC Chairman Ricky Chu accused medics, district councillors and other public figures, who urged citizens to avoid taking part in the voluntary mass testing scheme, of pedalling “pure speculation.”
“This kind of baseless and even irrational, blind opposition and boycott behaviour not only fails to cooperate with anti-epidemic measures, but it also affects the effectiveness of the universal community testing programme,” Chu wrote in the piece published on Tuesday.
Some pro-democracy political figures – including prominent activist Joshua Wong – have asked citizens to shun the government testing scheme, citing fears of DNA harvesting. The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance has argued that mass testing cannot effectively curb the spread of Covid-19. The union said it would be more efficient to conduct targeted testing.
The government said that as of 8 pm on Tuesday, a total of about 1,310,000 Hongkongers have registered at the community centres for testing since the launch of the programme on September 1. Separately, 1,240,000 people have registered online for appointments to receive the test since August 29. A total of about 1,030,000 specimen samples have been tested so far.
Health authorities reported 134 cases of suspected fraudulent use of personal data in online bookings. The cases have been referred to the police.
Last week, a Japanese restaurant in Shau Kei Wan issued a notice saying it would turn away customers who had undergone government testing. It alleged the poor professional standards of mainland health personnel increased the chances of infection, according to the EOC.
The restaurant also claimed participants had an “intelligence quotient of less than 65,” therefore they would not be able to differentiate the high-quality foods served at the establishment.
Chu blasted the move as discriminatory and said it should not be tolerated: “No matter what, [people] should not vilify the testing scheme and citizens who take part in it.”
The EOC chair went on to criticise a media report – without naming the outlet – that called a coronavirus patient the “queen of the virus.” An Apple Daily report on August 21 about a female patient who had infected her family members and coworkers, leading to one death, included the phrase.
He said reporters should not stigmatise or discriminate against anyone: “This kind of reporting lacks tolerance and empathy, it will only further segregate society and make Hong Kong more divided.”
A similar term appeared in a Sky Post report in February, when the free newspaper – under the Hong Kong Economic Times group – referred to a “super spreader” in China’s Hunan province as the “king of the virus.”
Chu also slammed the use of the term “Wuhan pneumonia,” an early name for the coronavirus that was adopted by media including state-owned China Daily, before the World Health Organization renamed the disease “Covid-19” in February.
He said the original name, still used by several Chinese-language news outlets, would foster discrimination, division and hatred: “It goes against the pressing needs for citizens to stand united against the pandemic.”