Hong Kong has within a mere couple years gone from packed streets to silence - as The Guardian has observed following the national security law and mainland China crackdown going deep into effect, given also the arrests and exiling of young protest leaders. One UK-based photojournalist laments that "With no protests left to photograph, it seemed a good idea to take a break... But it was with a heavy heart that I watched the situation continue to deteriorate from afar."
And then the streets grew eerily calm after a couple years of mass protest and unrest: "In January 2021, the authorities arrested dozens of activists under the national security law. In one fell swoop, it was as if the entire cast of characters in the story of Hong Kong’s democratic movement – one I had been covering for years – were arrested, in jail, or in exile."
Whatever additional "control" over the previously protesting crowds HK police couldn't get the upper hand on, the virus seems to have taken care of the rest, as the city has remained an on-and-off potential pandemic hot spot of concern for the mainland given it's a hub of foreign travel, now also as health officials are desperately seeking to trace a rare coronavirus variant infection that's raising new alarm. All of this seems conveniently timed of course, through Beijing's eyes at least.
Even business and top executives' travel to the financial hub can now be tightly managed and controlled based on stringent health measures, as Bloomberg observes of the latest hugely disruptive restrictions: "Senior global bankers hoping to skip Hong Kong's stringent quarantine regime will need to wait as concerns about imported Covid cases ratchet up," according to the report.
"Bank executives who have applied to take trips in June are being advised to postpone, without any indication of when requests under the new plan will be processed, according to a person familiar with the matter," it continues.
Currently a mandatory minimum hotel quarantine of at least three weeks is still in effect for Hong Kong inbound travelers as much of the rest of the world has opened up and moved on, for example other financial centers like New York and London, and even Singapore.
This is mandated even for the fully vaccinated, as Bloomberg underscores: "The pause is a blow for fully vaccinated bankers looking to travel outside the city and for executives from abroad planning to visit the financial hub without needing to quarantine in a hotel for three weeks."
Remember when the Chinese Communist Party was facing the largest existential threat to its existence in HK? Pro-democracy protests in HK were out of control when…POOF everyone was gone from the streets as the virus was released. #GoodTiming #China #Wuhan https://t.co/GUQT3Tg14I— 🇺🇸Kyle Bass🇺🇸 (@Jkylebass) June 16, 2021
At the end of May Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam introduced an easing plan which would allow select bankers to travel more freely based on each financial firm having the ability to apply for two quarantine exemptions per month. The idea was to speed up a post-pandemic economic recovery.
But this too is now on hold as the quarantine process for those wishing to travel is still in full effect. Some are now seeing the inexplicable reversal as yet another tool of primarily political control.
A spokesman for the island's Financial Services and Treasury Bureau issuing the following non-definitive statement via Bloomberg: "We are looking into the details of the applications received, and expect to take some time to process them in the light of latest local and global pandemic situations to ensure relevant control measures are sufficient to mitigate the risk of case importation."
Of course, ensuring "sufficient" and "relevant control measures" can be taken in more ways than one.