GBA Lifestyle News
City Living Section
By Andrea Lo | February 4th, 2021

All Tea No Shade with Andrea Lo

The South Asian community in Hong Kong “takes their masks off to eat and socialize” and that has contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in the Yau Tsim Mong area, says a health official. 

“They have many family gatherings and like to gather with fellow countrymen. They like to share food, smoke, drink alcohol and chat together. If it is without masks, the risk is high,” says Raymond Ho Lei-ming, the Centre for Health Protection’s head of Health Promotion.

Oh, really? I didn’t realize that Hong Kong Chinese — or people of other ethnicities in the city — have entirely refrained from dining family-style, indulging in tobacco products, boozing, or talking to each other over in person the past year, since COVID-19 began ravishing the world. (We haven’t. In fact, the ballroom dancing superspreader event that began late last year consisted mainly of Hong Kong Chinese). 

And of course, as plenty of people have pointed out on social media: everybody takes their masks off to eat. 

Ethnic minorities have long been marginalized in Hong Kong, and casual racism seems to be part of everyday life. One of the many effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been the long-existing, largely ignored problems in society floating to the surface. Raymond Ho’s comments came less than a month after lawmaker Elizabeth Quat called for the domestic helper workforce, who only get one day off a week and tend to congregate in public areas in Central — because they have nowhere else to go — to be locked down on weekends. (This didn’t come into place, thankfully, because it was rightly deemed discriminatory). 

The fact that our own government plays the blame game with certain ethnic groups in the spread of the virus shows you all you need to know about why this kind of attitude prevails among Hongkongers. We’re already seeing shocking incidents of racism in the last few days, like a Deliveroo customer who requested that “no Indian/Pakistani rider” is to deliver their food

What is also appalling, especially when it comes to clusters emerging around Hong Kong, is how differently we treat ethnic minorities of South and Southeast Asian descent here in Hong Kong compared to our attitudes towards westerners. 

Why do I say this? Just take a look at the out-of-control crowds that populate Peel Street in SoHo and Pier 3 in Central. This has been going on for months now. And yes, the folks populating these areas, masks off and with zero social distance, are mainly westerners. Did the government accuse these ethnic minorities of increasing virus exposure hanging out with “their fellow countrymen” sans mask? No. All they really did was cordon off a small area on Peel Street, made pointless power flexes towards a local business and occasionally warned gathering crowds.

It’s sad to me that, with the intense divisiveness and uncertainty that’s been going on in Hong Kong in the last year and a half, this is still how we choose to behave. As Hongkongers, we used to pride ourselves and our city on many things. But today, perhaps after the loss of freedom, basic human decency has also gone out of the window. 

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