Chief Executive Carrie Lam has told state media that there is “no truth” in the claim that the city’s pandemic controls demonstrate a failure of the “patriots administrating Hong Kong” principle. She said that how the city has fought the fifth wave of Covid-19 illustrates the strength of the One Country, Two Systems arrangement.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam. File photo: GovHK.

Lam told China Daily on Saturday that Beijing recognised the city’s autonomy to run its own healthcare systems under “two systems.” The city’s revamped 90-seat “patriots only” legislature had worked with the government to approve HK$30 billion of anti-pandemic funds, she said.

The chief executive added that Beijing’s interventions – including the arrival of the National Health Commission’s Liang Wannian – showed the success of One Country, Two Systems: “How the Hong Kong Special Administration Region has tackled this fifth wave of Covid-19 is a perfect illustration of Hong Kong’s unique strengths under One Country, Two Systems.”

AsiaWorld-Expo hospital
Treatment facility at AsiaWorld-Expo. Photo: GovHK.

With overstretched hospitals and a coffin shortage, Hong Kong has the highest Covid-19 death rate in the developed world. In all, the city has seen over a million cases and nearly 6,000 deaths.

Lam hailed Beijing for sending mainland medics to assist the city as she urged Hongkongers to have confidence in the One Country, Two Systems arrangement.

The chief executive also pointed to the Hong Kong Community Anti-Coronavirus Link scheme, referring to a network of frontline volunteers who are fighting the epidemic at the district level.

“Because of the electoral reform, we now have a better basis to work together with different sectors of the community,” Lam said.

beach beaches mui wo covid covid-19
Government-managed beaches were closed again in March as part of tightened social distancing measures. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

In March, 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.

Most of the city’s traditional opposition figures are behind bars, barred from election, have fled overseas or have quit politics, though the authorities have said the new system ensures stability.

‘Malicious forces’

Without citing evidence, Lam also claimed that “malicious” forces within the city and abroad continue to conspire to “smear the People’s Republic of China and drive a wedge between the central government and the people of Hong Kong…”

“That’s why on social media, you still see all these rumours, speculation and malicious comments about us getting help from the central government, about the mainland sending us supplies and medical personnel.”

Two elderly patients were seen outside the Caritas Medical Centre in Shum Shui Po on February 16, 2022.
Two elderly patients were seen outside the Caritas Medical Centre in Shum Shui Po on February 16, 2022. Photo: Kenny Huang/Studio Incendo.

Her chief secretary, John Lee, also hit out at “irresponsible speculation” on social media in a blog post on Sunday. He urged residents to be on alert for “misleading messages with ulterior motives” that may damage the relationship between the city and Beijing.

Hong Kong reported 14,149 Covid cases on Sunday and 246 deaths.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.