Hong Kong police have arrested a 65-year-old doctor on suspicion of issuing more than 3,000 Covid-19 vaccination medical exemption certificates without diagnosis. He became the sixth practitioner apprehended this month for allegedly producing false documents.

Doctor Covid-19 false exemption arrest
A 65-year-old doctor was arrested on September 27, 2022 for allegedly issuing false Covid-19 vaccination exemption certificates. Photo: Hong Kong Police.

Police arrested a 65-year-old man at a clinic on Lai Chi Kok Road on Tuesday morning, after receiving reports that the doctor allegedly handed out certificates exempting people from receiving a Covid-19 jab without conducting consultations or reviewing patients’ medical records.

Preliminary investigation found that the doctor issued more than 3,196 exemption certificates between February and May. He was believed to have charged HK$3,000 to HK$5,000 for each certificate.

Officers took away patients’ records, a computer and around HK$56,000 cash from the clinic. The doctor has been detained pending investigation.

Police warned that producing false documents was a serious crime and could warrant up to 14 years of imprisonment if convicted. Anyone who knows or believes that a document is false and possess such a document may also be in breach of the law, the maximum penalty for which is a three-year jail term.

covid-19 coronavirus vaccine
Coronavirus vaccination in Hong Kong. Photo: GovHK.

In a statement issued hours after Tuesday’s arrest, the government said the vaccination exemption certificates issued by seven doctors who had been arrested would be invalid from October 12.

Dr Tai Kong-shing, Dr Annie Choi, Dr Fu Yuen-lung, Dr Wong Ping-leung, Dr Charlie Yan and Dr Amy Lam were arrested this month, in cases involving the issuance of more than 20,000 certificates, each costing between HK$350 and HK$5,000.

The seventh practitioner who has been apprehended was Dr Chan Hoi-yuk, who was reportedly arrested in March on suspicion of “virtually” signing hundreds of vaccination exemption certificates. He was said to have fled Hong Kong.

Anyone who holds an exemption certificate from these doctors should consult other practitioners to confirm whether they can receive a Covid-19 jab or should be granted medical exemption, the government said.

Some of the cases surrounding the seven doctors have entered judicial procedures, while the Health Bureau and the Department of Health also referred them to the Medical Council of Hong Kong for follow-up.

The government has vowed to crack down on practitioners whom they have described as “unethical” and “mercenary,” and who “endangered” people’s health and impeded economic recovery by falsely issuing proof of exemptions. Police said their investigation would look into the “strange” price difference for the certificates.

The authorities also warned against using fake exemption documents, after at least 20 people who obtained their documents from clinics that were being investigated were arrested.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.