Beijing is now directly intervening in Hong Kong’s management of COVID-19, in what many Hong Kong residents fear is an attempt to exert control over the city under the guise of support.
This past week, Chinese authorities announced its plan to send a 60-person team into Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, to assist the city in conducting widespread COVID-19 testing through nucleic acid tests.
On Sunday, seven medical workers from mainland China first arrived and checked into Hong Kong’s infamous Metropark Hotel—the same hotel where a 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) super-spreading event occurred involving a Chinese doctor’s one-night stay there. The SARS pandemic, which originated in China, eventually infected over 8,000 people, killing 774 of them.
China Biomedical Group Involved in Hong Kong TestingA lab set up by Chinese gene sequencing and biomedical firm Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) Group is among several mainland Chinese organizations that will “conduct free new coronavirus tests for high-risk groups of more than 400,000 people in Hong Kong,” according to a news report reposted on the company’s website.
“With the support team joining hands with the mainland institutions, we can greatly increase testing capacity,” he said in an Aug. 3 report.
BGI Group did not respond to a request for comment.
Hong Kong Residents Worried About CCP Surveillance Via DNAThe news of widespread COVID-19 testing conducted by Chinese labs has evoked fear of China’s plans for DNA surveillance in Hong Kong.
In the aforementioned reposted news report, BGI’s Hong Kong lab director Wang Shihua assuaged public concerns of data being sent to the mainland, saying that personal information will not be collected and that only virus-positive samples would be sent to Hong Kong’s health department. “Other samples will be destroyed and will not be sent back to the Mainland. The public need not worry,” according to the interview conducted by local media DotDot News.
The statement also threatens criminal punishment for those voicing concerns about DNA collection. “The Hong Kong SAR [special administrative region] Government condemned the acts of those deliberately spreading false rumors and attacking its anti-epidemic work. As to whether spreading untrue claims intentionally by certain individuals would constitute a criminal offense, relevant government departments will study the matter carefully and collect evidence for follow-up.”