The fight against the Covid-19 pandemic “has exposed all kinds of maladministration” in Hong Kong, the city’s former secretary for commerce and economic development wrote in an op-ed on Tuesday.

In a piece published in Sing Tao Daily on Tuesday, Frederick Ma wrote that there were four “deep-rooted issues” that required the leadership of a “tough government with decisive leadership capabilities.”

frederick ma
Frederick Ma. Photo: Screenshot/RTHK.

The former secretary listed four issues including housing, the aging population, economic restructuring, and the execution of the administration.

“This fight against the pandemic has exposed all kinds of maladministration, weakening the faith of many people in the government. Because there were a lot of mistakes that should have been avoided – either in the grand scale of planning, or in the details of the execution,” wrote Ma.

The former secretary said that, as the chief executive election approaches, the “most pressing matter” was to “form a cabinet with good governing capabilities.”

“Singapore’s former prime minister Lee Kuan-yew once said that ‘the art of government is to get the right people to the right place.’ Meaning that the government must appoint people on their merit, and choose accurately…” wrote Ma.

Hong Kong has reported 733,785 Covid-19 infections and 4,279 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago.

Lacking support

Ma has become the second prominent figure to criticise the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in recent days. Last Sunday, Senior Counsel Cheng Huan wrote a column in Sing Tao Daily urging Chief Executive Carrie Lam to set out a plan for the city to “co-exist” with Covid-19.

Cheng Huan
Senior Counsel Cheng Huan. File photo: FCC, via video screenshot.

Titled “a letter to the chief executive,” Cheng wrote that “the most important priority is to vaccinate all citizens, and set out a plan for a future where we co-exist with coronavirus.”

The senior counsel said that he “had no intention to object to the policy of zero-Covid,” but what worried him was “the confusing messages” released by the government in recent weeks.

“Today, someone in the government leaked a message, but tomorrow another person from the government would raise another version, confusing citizens,” wrote Cheng.

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“I have to inform you that all of the people whom I know and have talked to – no one supports your current way of handling things,” the senior counsel’s letter read.

Cheng said that, for the zero-Covid policy to succeed, clear support from society must be obtained, “and that is what is lacking at the moment.”

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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.