A top government official is to be sent to compulsory Covid-19 quarantine at Penny’s Bay after attending a birthday party on Monday for a Hong Kong delegate to China’s top legislature, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Thursday.

Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Lam – who was not wearing a mask – said that Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui told her on Thursday morning that he had attended the gathering, adding that over 100 people were at the event.

The announcement came after HK01 and Now News cited sources saying that senior government officials and lawmakers including Tsui, Commissioner of of Police Raymond Siu, newly elected Legislative Councillors Benson Luk and Rock Chen were among the attendees at the birthday gathering in Wan Chai for Witman Hung, the city’s delegate to the National People’s Congress.

Witman Hung. Photo: Witman Hung, via Facebook.

The chief executive said that the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) reported that the preliminary positive patient only arrived at the party at 9:30 p.m., and that attendees leaving before then would not be considered as close contacts.

Lam said that eight other government officials – including Commissioner Siu and Simon Peh, head of the city’s anti-corruption watchdog – claimed to have left before the patient arrived on the scene. However, Lam said she requested further proof from the group of officials, including data from the “LeaveHomeSafe” tracking app.

One other government official, Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang, had yet to prove that he left before the Covid-19 patient arrived at the banquet, Lam said. She added that she was “very disappointed” that government officials still attended a mass gathering despite that fact that the Omicron variant had entered the community.

“So many people were working so hard to fight the pandemic, the government officials should have led by example,” said Lam.

The government headquarters will undergo sanitisation, Lam said.

When asked if she will ask Tsui to step down, Lam said that she will take “appropriate actions.”

Duncan Chiu, another lawmaker who attended Monday’s event, thanked people for their concern on Facebook: “I am currently self-isolating at my room at home, my family members and colleagues have also been told to get tested,” said Chiu, who added that he had yet to be told to go into compulsory quarantine.

Caspar Tsui lunch with Tik Chi-yuen and other Third Side members. Photo: Facebook.

According to Tsui’s Facebook page, he had lunch a day after Monday’s party with self-proclaimed non-pro-establishment lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen and his party colleagues.

Cathay case

Following reports of a Cathay Pacific aircrew staffer violating quarantine restrictions and prompting a cluster outbreak in the city, Lam summoned the chair and the CEO of the airline last month to “express strong discontent.” However, when asked if she should take similar responsibility over the case involving the banquet, Lam said that being accountable was not equal to “taking personal responsibility for the personal decision and actions of every colleague.”

Tougher measures

News of the incident came on the eve of stricter social-distancing rules taking effect on Friday, when dine-in services in restaurants will be banned after 6 p.m., and 15 types of designed premises, including swimming pools, gyms, beauty parlours, cinemas, and bars, will have to shut for at least a fortnight.

Penny’s Bay Covid-19 quarantine centre on Lantau. File photo: GovHK.

Hong Kong will also bar flights and travellers from eight countries from Saturday onwards, including Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK, and the US.

The city’s Covid-19 preventative measures were tightened amid fears of a community outbreak after clusters of locally-transmitted Omicron variant cases grew.

Hong Kong reported 33 new infections on Thursday, 28 of which were imported cases. The city has recorded 12,832 cases and 213 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic around two years ago.

More to follow.

Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.