Many local organizations have been seriously inconvenienced by the rules against public gatherings. Some people have been fined for breaches of the rules. Yet one organization continues to organize events at which large numbers of people breathe the same air.
I am not too concerned about whether all this is legal or not. Clearly if you are the chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR that is not in practice a worry.
But it does seem that senior government officials are still eagerly engaging in all the usual visits, “inspections” and opening ceremonies, at a time when the rest of us are being urged to stay at home and avoid contact with our fellow citizens, for health. reasons.
No doubt they will say that these are important functions, that they are good for morale staff, and give top bureaucrats an opportunity to see on the ground the effect of their stratospheric deliberations on strategy. And this is important.
But it is really? In my working days I remember visits, inspections and ceremonial occasions as rather an extra burden than a pleasure. Days of work preparing to make a good impression, much of it wasted, followed by the mysterious appearance of all sorts of people otherwise rarely seen.
Government visits are by all accounts even worse – though somewhat shorter – than that gruesome academic ritual the “validation visit”. Professors did not, at least, require a lift and a toilet to be reserved for their use while they were in the building.
I realize it is difficult to follow the rules if you are accompanied everywhere by two bodyguards. You are over the Covid limit as soon as you step out of the car. Also when you are touring someone else’s building, quite a lot of people will wish to be present.
On the other hand this means that an awful lot of people are not doing their usual work, whatever that is, while they are showing you round. You are, in effect, just an interruption. And I doubt that there will be any compensating boost to morale from visits by officials whose popularity – or lack of it – has plumbed depths unexplored even by Mr CY Leung.
Also, whatever you can say for these occasions, there is a painful discrepancy here. At a time when organizations of all kinds have had to suspend their activities, when children facing important exams are studying via Zoom, when underpaid helpers are being fined a month’s salary for meeting in a group of three, is it acceptable – is it nice? – for senior government officials to be pictured touring their empires in large groups, accompanied by shoals of assistants, deputies, pilot fish and small horses of all kinds?
We all have to make sacrifices. We are, after all, at war, as Lam regularly reminds us. This is not the time for official tourism.
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