Editor’s Note for Wednesday, February 16, 2022

A note for Access newsletter readers from Jeremy Goldkorn. Today: Hong Kong is more and more a part of China, except when it comes to the city's outbreak of COVID-19.

editor's note for Access newsletter

My thoughts today:

“One country, two systems” means less and less in Hong Kong, as censorship, restrictions on civil liberties, and other mainland Chinese characteristics become part of daily life in the supposedly autonomous territory.

But COVID-19 is showing that Hong Kong is not yet just another place in China: Case counts are rising rapidly, threatening to overwhelm the city’s emergency resources as we reported yesterday. In the words of the New York Times, “An Omicron surge has exposed the weaknesses of a system that was once a world leader in containing the coronavirus.”

Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 has ordered Hong Kong to “take all necessary steps,” but not even the Chairman of Everything can order the virus around, and Hong Kong simply does not have the efficient authoritarian machinery of the Communist Party in place. This is also the view of Chairman Rabbit 兔主席, the popular pro-establishment blogger whose real name is Rèn Yì 任意, and who is the grandson of noted Communist Party reformer Rèn Zhòngyí 任仲.

Ren recently wrote in support of China’s COVID-zero policy, but he has now concluded that “considering Hong Kong’s political and social reality and public management enforcement,” it is not sustainable there. But, he says grudgingly, there is a silver lining:

Hong Kong may really help the Chinese mainland to open up perspectives for the next step for COVID-19 Pandemic. If so, I guess Hong Kong finally makes historic contributions to China’s fight with COVID-19 in its own way.

Our word of the day is Xuzhou mother of eight (徐州八孩母 xúzhōu bāhái mǔ), the name social and news media reports have given to a woman found chained in a shack in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province. There’s an update on that story in today’s newsletter.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief