Keep politics and “malicious rumours” out of the dialogue on the coronavirus vaccination programme, urges Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive in Name Only (CENO).

In a recent statement the government said, “the decision on procurement of vaccines is  based on the considerations of safety, efficacy, quality and supply, and does not in any way involve political factors.”

Carrie Lam. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

This is rich coming from an administration that has consistently inserted politics into the heart of the battle to combat the virus. It is the CENO who has used the virus as an excuse for postponing the LegCo election, for banning all public demonstrations and – in the early stage of the crisis – as an excuse for a shabby patriotic flag-waving charade involving the shipping in of a large number of mainland medical specialists for purposes never clearly identified.

Now the rubber-stamp LegCo has given the Lam administration the green light to buy HK$8.4 billion worth of vaccines for a universal inoculation programme. Although this includes provision for the purchase of vaccines developed in the US, Britain and Germany, priority is being given to bringing in the China-developed vaccine made by Sinovac.

This will, apparently, be made available in Hong Kong next month. The difference between Sinovac’s product and the others on the government roster is that the third phase of clinical test results has either not been completed or has been completed but without the release of the results – although there has been a promise of more information on December 23.

It is hardly revelatory to state that transparency is not one of the PRC’s strong points. While not enough is known about this vaccine, it is not surprising that so many people are sceptical about receiving it.

File Photo: Artem Podrez on

Transparency has not been enhanced by the government’s initial attempts to obscure the fact that its second-in-line purchase is not, as previously stated, coming from a US-German company but a Sino-German joint venture. This raises the question of why, if there is no problem with mainland vaccines, there should be an attempt to obscure the source.

Yet the government insists that the “procurement of vaccines is solely based on prevailing scientific evidence.” If this is so, why have we not been shown the evidence?

Stamping out the virus requires a large majority of the people to be inoculated and for this to happen citizens must have confidence that not only will the vaccine work but that it does not produce damaging side effects. As matters stand, there is no evidence that Sinovac’s CoronaVac meets these criteria.

What is known however is that Sinovac, to put it mildly, has a problematic history. A Washington Post report has recently alleged that Yin Weidong, the company’s founder and CEO, was bribing Yin Hongzhang, a government drug regulator during the years 2002-2011, to speed up approvals for vaccine use. Yin Hongzhang was jailed for 10 years in 2016 for bribery offences. However Yin Weidong was absolved of blame.

Photo: GovHK.

Nonetheless, the following year, Sinovac was found to have bribed hospitals in Guangdong province hospitals to use its Hepatitis A vaccine.

Hongkongers, according to the CENO, are not supposed to pay attention to any of this and she has said she and her team of muppets will be first in line to be inoculated with Sinovac’s new CoronaVac. Let’s pause here to think about this and, dear reader, please do not dare to contemplate the obvious.

So, here we are again with the CENO employing the kind of doublespeak in which she has become admirably fluent, urging the exclusion of politics from the dialogue while going hell for leather in pursuing a political agenda.

File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

She is not alone in using the virus for political ends, as a quick glance towards the United States will confirm. The difference in the Hong Kong of today is that with a weaponised legal system there is a much stronger chance of punishing those who call out the government for its actions.

Meanwhile, both the medical and economic crisis deepens in Hong Kong and the government’s inconsistent and politically-charged response is allowing matters to go from bad to worse.

HKFP does not necessarily share views expressed by opinion writers and advertisers. HKFP regularly invites figures across the political spectrum to write for us in order to present a diversity of views.


Stephen Vines

Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist, writer and broadcaster and runs companies in the food sector. He was the founding editor of 'Eastern Express' and founding publisher of 'Spike'. In London he was an editor at The Observer and in Asia has worked for international publications including, the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, BBC, Asia Times and The Independent. Vines is the author of several books, including: Hong Kong: China’s New Colony, The Years of Living Dangerously - Asia from Crisis to the New Millennium and Market Panic and most recently, Food Gurus. He hosts a weekly television current affairs programme: The Pulse. Vines’ latest book, Defying the Dragon – Hong Kong and the world’s largest dictatorship, will be published in 2021 by Hurst Publishers, London