Five new strains of virus have been detected in Hong Kong and the authorities have identified 4 places of origins Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and Dubai respectively, writes Jianli Yang.
The fifth place of origin is unknown. From a total population of 7.5 million, the new strains have put the tally of infections to a total of 11,005, and with the death of an elderly man, lives lost to covid in Hong Kong have reached a total of 199. Hong Kong recorded new covid cases originating from the K11 Musea’s upscale mall. A Chinese restaurant called Mr. Ming’s is the original hotspot to the new strains of virus which are associated with the new super spreader cluster. Hong Kong has started rolling out the Sinovac vaccines.
However, people in Hong Kong are no longer very trusting of the vaccine. Initially there was trust and willingness but now the people are currently opposed to it. There is a mix of information that the masses in Hong Kong are receiving about the vaccine ever since discrepancy in information about its efficacy came to light in the data provided by Sinovac with the Brazilian trial of the Sinovac vaccine showing an efficacy of 50.4%. People are worried since Sinovac has not published data on the phase 3 of their trial and fear is at an all-time high in Hong Kong against mainland China. Professor Wallace Lau, convenor of the government’s advisory panel on coronavirus has stated that clinicians should be able to see results reviewed by other scientists in a journal.
Hong Kong has suffered many significant blows to their attempts to advance democracy. China has placed a new national security law with vague wording that gives them authority to by-pass the legislature and effectively arrest all dissenting voices with an anti-China stance. Ever since the clash between the civilians of Hong Kong and police over the extradition bill, people in Hong Kong have generally become wary of how China wants to run things. A sample survey of 1200 people showed only 37 % were sure about taking the vaccine, a number which is well below the required percentage for herd immunity.
This coupled with the series of statements made by Chinese government officials on the international stage about how Hong Kong is not being suppressed but rather properly governed tells you the extent to which China will go to save face and squash any attempts Hong Kongers make to protect freedom, rule of law and to advance democracy, or indeed any attempts to voice dissent of grievance. Due to the discrepancy in the data Singapore and Malaysia’s governments have given an assurance that they will run the vaccines through all the necessary tests before rolling them out for people. It has however led to mass distrust.
It is not far-fetched to suspect that China’s pharmaceuticals are too focused on capturing the market as they see it as a golden opportunity. Sinovac’s chairman has stated that they will be able to produce 300 million doses a year in its newly built 20,000 sqm production plant, hoping to get a further stronger grasp on the Asian market. This covid crisis that started in Wuhan has to have a happy ending so to speak and China would like to appear as the proverbial “Knight in Shining Armour” for the world. The geo-politics of this vaccine diplomacy is not lost on anyone. The push to first deliver to neighbouring Asian countries and African countries is a means to have smoother relations with them, have more legitimacy as a trade partner and capture the favourable first wave of demand and supply. As Hong Kong faces aggressive push back from China undermining their “One country two system” rule—its autonomy while facing a major pandemic, it is evident how China is already using the changed laws and giving contradictory data about their biggest vaccine to avoid losing out on the gains to be made.
The Author, Dr. Jianli Yang is the founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, a Tiananmen Massacre survivor, and a former political prisoner in China.