Xi Jinping urges local government to shoulder ‘primary responsibility’ for containing fifth wave and give top priority to stability and people’s lives

Chinese President Xi Jinping has stressed to the Hong Kong government that it must bear “primary responsibility” in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, urging it to stabilize the situation as soon as possible, local pro-government media reported on Wednesday. Beijing.

Ta Kungpao and Wen Wei Po reported that in his capacity as general secretary of the Communist Party, Xi had asked the local government to take all necessary measures to protect the lives and safety of Hong Kong residents and ensure the overall stability of society.

They also reported that Xi had asked Vice Premier Han Zheng, the top head of state overseeing Hong Kong affairs, to convey to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor the “concern of the President regarding the pandemic situation in the city and his handling of Hong Kong”. inhabitants “.

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The central government was also setting up a working mechanism to ensure effective coordination against the pandemic, the newspapers said. The group will be led by the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office and the National Health Commission, and will involve authorities and experts from Beijing, as well as Guangdong and local governments.

Condolences offered to parents of youngest Covid-related death in Hong Kong

Analysts saw Xi’s message as a warning to local government, signaling that Beijing believes local authorities have not done their best to bring the city’s fifth wave of infections under control.

Mainland Chinese scholar Tian Feilong said Xi’s unusual decision to send the instructions in his capacity as general secretary showed that the central government attached the utmost importance to local anti-pandemic efforts and left open the ” ability to hold the Hong Kong government accountable”. at a later date.

The message from Beijing came as the fifth wave continued to grow, with the city confirming 1,619 cases on Tuesday, the same day a three-year-old girl became the youngest Covid-related death in Hong Kong.

His death sparked an outpouring of condolences on social media, especially as it coincided with the Chinese Lantern Festival, traditionally a time of family reunion.

The city expected to confirm more than 4,000 new cases on Wednesday.

Regarding the situation in Hong Kong, media reported that Xi had “stressed that Hong Kong must seriously take the primary responsibility and make it the top priority to stabilize and control the epidemic as soon as possible.”

“The authorities should mobilize all forces and resources that can be mobilized, take all necessary measures and protect the lives and health of Hong Kong people, as well as ensure Hong Kong’s social stability,” he said.

“The relevant central and local authorities should fully support and assist the Hong Kong government to do its anti-epidemic work well.”

People line up for coronavirus tests at a mobile sample collection station in Mong Kok on Tuesday. Photo: Jelly Tse

Vice Premier Han instructed the Hong Kong government and relevant authorities to “firmly implement Xi’s instructions”, and ordered relevant authorities in Beijing and Guangdong to deal with requests made by Hong Kong.

These included increasing testing capacity, purchasing rapid test kits and other medical equipment, supporting construction of isolation and medical facilities, ensuring product supply necessities such as fresh food and sending coronavirus experts to Hong Kong to offer advice.

The Guangdong party committee and the provincial government also met to discuss the situation in Hong Kong and make plans to help the city and ensure the flow of supplies.

Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the semi-official think tank the Chinese Association for Hong Kong and Macao Studies, called Xi’s message on Wednesday “supervisory and instructive,” saying the inability to control the local epidemic would not only affect the interests of the city, but the overall development of the country.

“The central government would not publicly criticize the Hong Kong government, but obviously Beijing is not happy with the Lam administration’s hesitations and delays in controlling the pandemic. It is rare for Xi to ask you to take full responsibility, which means the government must act immediately,” Lau said.

“Beijing fears that people’s fear and uncertainty will turn into anger, again causing political instability, while the delay in resuming cross-border travel means that Hong Kong is again delayed in integrating into the plan. overall national development.”

Tian, ​​the mainland scholar, said Xi’s instructions amounted to criticism of the Hong Kong government’s failure to control the pandemic for more than two years.

“It is also possible to hold the Hong Kong government accountable in the future,” said the associate law professor at Beihang University. “The lingering pandemic and growing public discontent threaten the foundations of Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”

Tian said the local government should take extraordinary measures, such as imposing closures for mandatory testing.

“The Chief Executive should learn from the continent’s experience in fighting the pandemic,” he added.

Another mainland expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the situation had reached such a point that Hong Kong’s social stability was under threat.

“Many crucial events, such as preparations for the 25th anniversary celebration of Hong Kong’s handover, are also affected,” he said.

The expert added that the worsening of the epidemic will inevitably affect the next election of the chief executive, whether or not the incumbent leader seeks re-election.

Hong Kong expects over 4,200 new coronavirus cases

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to China’s top legislature, said Xi’s instruction was a sign that the city should mobilize resources and manpower from the mainland, especially from Guangdong.

“Xi shows his concern and care to the city, so the Chief Executive and all officials must be mobilized to fight the pandemic as soon as possible…so that we can resume normal life and reopen the border soon. “, did he declare. .

Wednesday’s post came less than two months after Xi “fully acknowledged” Chief Executive Lam’s leadership in effectively containing the coronavirus pandemic, and praised her for her work over the past year. , which resulted in the first Legislative Council election after Beijing’s “patriots-only” overhaul. of the city’s political system.

In January, Xi also touched on Hong Kong when describing what he said were national achievements over the past year in his Lunar New Year greetings at a reception in Beijing. Xi said the city had been “transformed from chaos to governance”, and the fight against “independence” and the push for reunification had intensified.

Hong Kong’s worsening pandemic situation contrasts with that of mainland China, where only 80 cases, 40 of them imported, were reported on Tuesday.

Beijing currently hosts the Winter Olympics, which end on Sunday.

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This article Coronavirus Hong Kong: Xi Jinping Urges Local Government To Take ‘Primary Responsibility’ Of Containing The Fifth Wave And Giving Top Priority To Stability And People’s Lives first appeared on South China Morning Post

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