Beijing is demanding that officials be swiftly punished for what's become known as the Hong Kong Covid birthday party scandal, after last week some 200 people including top officials were exposed to the virus at a large indoor bash, which also didn't have much in the way of 'social distancing' given the very tight quarters, with the exception of masks.
At least 13 high-ranking bureaucrats under the government of Chief Executive Carrie Lam are still in quarantine Monday, and up to a couple dozen officials. And more embarrassing for China is that the birthday party was for a representative of a mainland China agency. Currently HK officials are scrambling to track down the whereabouts of everyone in attendance, given the presence of many individuals who were not on the invitee list:
The public health scandal erupted last week after it emerged that 14 officials and 20 lawmakers were among some 200 guests who last Monday attended the 53rd birthday party of Witman Hung Wai-man, a delegate to the national legislature. They were exposed to a coronavirus-infected guest, Celia Wong, 37, a member of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association’s youth committee.
Subsequently it's believed that multiple local Chinese officials were exposed to the Covid Omicron variant in the aftermath of the party, sending additional local Chinese deputies to the National People’s Congress into quarantine. At this point no less than 20% of officials in HK's so-called "patriot's" political party have been sent into lockdown.
While only 100 people were supposed to be at the birthday event in question, so far health authorities have traced at least 214 who were actually in attendance. Many have reportedly attempted to dodge contact tracing, given especially the scandal has been all over the pages of regional media.
On Monday, The South China Morning Post reported that the Chinese government is demanding answers, putting immense pressure on the pro-mainland HK government as its "credibility" is on the line over the scandal:
Beijing has asked Hong Kong’s leader to "take swift action" against officials who attended a big birthday party in the midst of an outbreak of Covid-19 cases, the Post has learned.
Observers echoed the need for a prompt response to resolve the controversy and said any delay could deal a "serious blow to the credibility of governance". Should a breach of discipline be confirmed, government advisers said suspension, demotion, pay cuts or even dismissal should be considered.
HONG KONG | MASS QUARANTINE— Nikkei Asia (@NikkeiAsia) January 7, 2022
More than two dozen Hong Kong politicians and top government officials were ordered into a spartan quarantine facility after they were exposed to suspected COVID-19 cases at a birthday party. https://t.co/I3tHxYmVbU
Further the report includes: "Sources also said mainland China officials were piling pressure on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s government to punish Cathay Pacific, the city’s flagship carrier, especially after Beijing health experts had earlier identified aircrew as a potential risk area in their trip to the city."
Lam herself has ordered an investigation after expressing "deep disappointment" over the ordeal, even singling out home affairs chief Caspar Tsui Ying-wai, who is said to have stayed late at the party, for public rebuke.
After harsh pro-China censorship laws have resulted in the shuttering of several news agencies, independent press outlets which have remained are highlighting that such "ridiculousness would become the norm"...
As #Hongkongers are banned from dine-in eating after 6pm, top gov officials attended 100-guest birthday party for a mainland Chinese agency rep.— Hong Kong Liberty 攬炒團隊 (@HKLiberty_Team) January 7, 2022
Without supervision from reliable media like #StandNews we fear this ridiculousness would become the norm.https://t.co/n8f4EuWRQh
However, it stopped short of an official apology issued to the public - a populace which has long lived under strict Covid protocols enforced from nearly the beginning of the pandemic. And now HK leadership has its own do as I say not as I do scandal to contend with, such as what recently happened with UK government Christmas parties, which involved top officials flaunting Britain's own strict Covid rules.