Two Beijing agencies overseeing Hong Kong affairs have condemned local activists for “slandering the mainland’s efforts to aid the city in fighting the epidemic”, as some health care workers and several activists called for a boycott of the government's universal coronavirus testing plan.
A few hours after the calls for boycott emerged, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) and Beijing’s liaison office in the city issued statements on Sunday evening saying such actions disregarded the safety and health of the Hong Kong public.
“Those very few people with ulterior motives in Hong Kong have taken good for evil, slandering and discrediting the mainland's assistance to Hong Kong in fighting the epidemic,” an HKMAO spokesman said.
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The office maintained that the activists had groundlessly slandered the qualifications of the mainland experts, the quality of testing reagents and the safety of the laboratory, falsely claiming the citywide testing, which will be handled by mainland-based testing companies, was merely aimed at financially benefiting certain firms – or worse.
“They even made up stories and spread rumours of ‘genes being sent to China’, with the intention of creating social panic and repeating the ugly scenes of rumours in the extradition bill crisis,” the office said.
Trust between Hongkongers and the central and local governments hit rock bottom after anti-government protests broke out last June over a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed for the extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland. The protests later evolved into a movement calling for broader democratic freedoms and self-determination for the city – frequently involving violent clashes with the police.
“We hereby warn these malicious people: with the implementation of Hong Kong's national security law, Hong Kong is undergoing a transformation from chaos to governance, and acts such as ‘Hong Kong independence’, ‘black violence’ and ‘mutual destruction’ will continue to suffer heavy blows,” the spokesman added, referring to last year’s protests.
The controversial Beijing-drafted national security law went into effect on June 30 of this year, and outlaws in broad terms any acts of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with external forces.
A similar statement was issued by the liaison office, denouncing some activists’ “despicable behaviour”.
The Hong Kong government, for its part, also expressed “extreme disappointment and regret” over what it said was misleading information surrounding the universal coronavirus testing, especially from some people who had “smeared” the programme on social media.
The citywide mass testing – which involves 220 mainland medical personnel coming across the border to assist in the scheme – is set to begin on Tuesday. As of 8pm on Sunday, over 430,000 people had registered to get tested.
The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, formed during last year's anti-government protests, said on Sunday afternoon that universal testing was not an efficient use of resources, and urged focused tests instead, suggesting the testing push was motivated by “political aims”.
“If the person thinks that he or she will be healthy because of a false-negative result, this will cause a big disaster for the city. Because they will think they are healthy, and they will still carry on with their social activities as usual,” said Winnie Yu Wai-ming, the alliance chairwoman.
Activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung called for a boycott of the scheme on social media, calling for tighter border controls, and likening the current testing scheme to “having a pregnancy test without having birth control.”
Meanwhile, the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said a volunteer was attacked by a man with an umbrella in Shau Kei Wan while distributing fliers for the testing programme on Saturday afternoon.
The police said the 45-year-old woman got into a dispute with the man over road use, with the man reportedly striking the woman with his umbrella and fleeing the scene. The case has been classified as common assault and criminal damage.