The operator of a restaurant at the centre of a scandal over a rule-breaking birthday party for a Hong Kong delegate to China’s top legislature has pleaded guilty to violating Covid-19 restrictions and been fined HK$6,000.

A representative from Win Project Limited, the company that owns the Reserva Iberica restaurant where Witman Hung hosted his birthday party in January, appeared in front of Deputy Magistrate Gary Chu at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on Friday, local media reported.

The party’s venue, Reserva Iberica in Wan Chai. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Over 200 people attended the event at the Wan Chai restaurant, including 15 government officials, just as the Omicron variant was beginning to spread widely in the city.

According to HK01, Win Project stood accused of violating Cap. 599F Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirements and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation for displaying an inaccurate seating plan and notice about its hourly rate of air change, which did not fit the requirements set out by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

When handing down his ruling, Chu said that Hong Kong was facing its fifth wave of Covid-19 at the time of the offence and that the punishment had to take into account the transmission risk involved with the event, Now News reported.

Hong Kong has reported 1,200,334 Covid-19 infections and 9,212 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago.

Verbal warnings and fixed-penalty notices

Hung’s birthday took place in Reserva Iberica on January 3, when the city was facing a sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 infections, an outbreak that later would become Hong Kong’s fifth and worst coronavirus wave.

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

Two guests that attended the party tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 170 were later sent to compulsory quarantine, including several government officials such as police chief Raymond Siu, former home affairs secretary Caspar Tsui, and Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui.

Some guests and officials were released from the facility at Penny’s Bay early after one of the guests turned out to be a false positive case.

The party cluster and the involvement of top government officials rocked the government. Tsui resigned in late January over the incident, and two other officials, the Political Assistant to the Secretary for Development Allen Fung and the Deputy Head of the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office Vincent Fung received verbal warnings.

Six party attendees received fixed-penalty notices from the FEHD earlier this month, four for not using the government’s contact tracing mobile app LeaveHomeSafe, and three for violations of the mask-wearing rule.

While the FEHD did not name those who received fixed penalty tickets, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said none of the officials who attended the party were fined.

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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.