170-odd guests who attended a birthday party for a Hong Kong delegate to China’s top legislature are to be sent to quarantine for 21 days at Penny’s Bay, after a second person tested preliminary positive for the Covid-19 virus.

Party host Witman Hung and Ellen Tsang, both election committee members. Photo: Internet.

At least 13 senior government officials and 19 lawmakers attended Monday’s birthday party for Witman Hung, Hong Kong’s delegate to the National People’s Congress. They included police chief Raymond Siu, immigration chief Au Ka-wang, Home Affairs Secretary Caspar Tsui and Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Christopher Hui. The party was held at Spanish restaurant Reserva Ibérica in Wan Chai, local media reported.

Initially, only seven senior officials and lawmakers who were present at the same time as the first identified patient were required to undergo compulsory quarantine. But the discovery of a second patient means that the list of people to be quarantined will now include all guests, according to Centre for Health Protection chief Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan.

An electronic invitation to the party. Photo: Internet.

One of the attendees – legislator Junius Ho – met Beijing’s top official on Hong Kong affairs Xia Baolong during a Shenzhen meeting with other lawmakers two days after the party, Legislative Council’s president Andrew Leung said on Friday. However, everyone had tested negative before meeting him.

Gov’t officials and lawmakers at the party – click to view

Officials

  1. Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang.
  2. Police Commissioner Raymond Siu.
  3. Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui.
  4. Secretary for Financial Services and Treasury Christopher Hui.
  5. Independent Commission Against Corruption Commissioner Simon Peh.
  6. Under Secretary for Home Affairs Jack Chan.
  7. Under Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Jospeph Chan Ho-lim.
  8. Under Secretary for Innovation and Technology David Chung.
  9. Political Assistant to Secretary for Innovation and Technology Lilian Cheong.
  10. Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Clement Woo.
  11. Political Assistant to Secretary for Development Allen Fung.
  12. Political Assistant to Secretary for Kathy Siu.
  13. Political Assistant to Secretary for Education Jeff Sze.

Lawmakers

  1. Tan Yueheng. 
  2. Lilian Kwok. 
  3. Chan Pui-leung. 
  4. Judy Chan. 
  5. Elizabeth Quat. 
  6. Eunice Yung. 
  7. Lai tung Kwok. 
  8. Junius Ho. 
  9. Chow man-kong. 
  10. Wendy Hong. 
  11. Nixie Lam. 
  12. Kwok wai keung. 
  13. Kenneth Fok. 
  14. Dennis Lam.
  15. Kenneth Leung.
  16. Rock Chan. 
  17. Johnny Ng. 
  18. Duncan Chiu. 
  19. Benson Luk.

‘Sincere apology’

It is mandated by law that any person entering restaurants must check-in using the government’s LeaveHomeSafe contact-tracing app, which records the time they arrived at – or departed from – a venue.

However, Au, the chief of immigration, was not yet able to supply proof that he left the event before the Covid-19 patient arrived at the banquet, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Thursday. She did not answer questions as to whether the official used the app as the law requires.

Au offered his “sincere apology” to all people of Hong Kong in a statement issued on Friday, for “the additional burden to the epidemic prevention work and the disturbance to the public as a result of my personal behaviour.” 

“I have reflected on this incident and shall be more vigilant in future,” he added.

Repeat offenders

Among the government officials in attendance was Au and former customs and excise commissioner Hermes Tang. In March, both were given a HK$5,000 penalty ticket for breaching Covid-19 rules when attending a 9-person hotpot dinner at a private club to farewell a departing Chinese official. The incident was first revealed in July by now-defunct news outlet Stand News as well as Ming Pao. Lam compared the officials’ penalty to a parking ticket at the time, and said she hoped “the matter could be put to rest”.

A photo taken at the party showed over 40 people attending at the same time. Photo: Channel C.

Images published by digital media platform Channel C appeared to show Monday’s birthday party host Witman Hung – an election committee member – holding a microphone as well as another election committee member, Ellen Tsang. None of the nine people shown in the photo wore masks. Two other group photos showed over 40 people at the event in close proximity, most of whom were masked.

Aside from Au, Tsui, Hung and Tsang also issued statements of apology. In a Facebook post on Thursday, the home affairs chief apologised to China’s central government, the chief executive and other officials and Hongkongers. “Facing my own mistakes, I will reflect seriously and deeply during quarantine,” he wrote. “I need to be responsible for my own mistakes and will respect the rules to go into isolation. I will also learn my lesson and not make the same mistake again.”

Hung also apologised in a statement, HK01 reported, adding that all guests were required to sign in with the LeaveHomeSafe app and were required to be vaccinated. Guests were welcomed from around 6 p.m. on Monday but not everyone showed up at the same time, with many dropping by to greet others without staying for the meal, he said.

An invitation to the party indicated that guests were asked to wear masks unless eating, to avoid toasting and to avoid posting photos to social media.

‘Lawmakers should be responsible’

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Thursday that she was “very disappointed” that government officials attended a gathering of over 100 despite the fact that the Omicron variant had entered the community.

Andrew Leung. Photo: Legislative Council, via Flickr.

Before reports said all guests needed to be quarantined, Leung, the president of the legislature, said he expected the first meetings of the session to be held as scheduled next Wednesday. Of the 19 lawmakers who attended the party, 16 are members of the election committee constituency, and three are in functional constituencies.

Leung said he reached out to every lawmaker who was a guest to get tested for the virus and cooperate with health authorities. “If the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) calls you, you have to be honest and tell them… and the CHP will tell you if you need to be quarantined,” he said.

“Lawmakers should be responsible for their own behaviour, and they are subject to public accountability,” he said. “Especially for the new lawmakers, they should learn how to conduct themselves in the future.”

On Friday, there were 33 more confirmed Covid-19 cases, of which 26 were imported. About 30 people were tested preliminary positive.

In total, Hong Kong has reported 12,732 confirmed Covid cases as of Friday, while the death toll stood at 213.

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.