Editorial:Caspar Tsui Should Step Down for Frustrating Anti-epidemic Efforts

【明報專訊】Just when things are looking grim for Hong Kong's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been revealed that 10 senior officials attended a large-scale birthday party on Monday (3 January). The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) discovered afterwards that an attendee has tested preliminary positive. Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui, who also attended the party, has been listed as a close contact and is to be isolated at the Penny's Bay Quarantine Centre. With Omicron bearing down on the city, the Secretary for Food and Health had urged the public to avoid going to crowded places or participating in large events. Senior-ranking officials should have led by example and exercised strict self-discipline.

Yesterday (6 January) Hong Kong added 33 new cases of infection. 28 of them were imported, and the remaining 5 cases were related to previous ones. The cluster related to the mother of an infected flight attendant has continued to expand. Those infected include not only a friend from her dancing group and a foreign domestic helper, but also the diners at the restaurants she visited, including one in North Point and a Chinese restaurant at Causeway Bay's Windsor House.

It is understood that Witman Hung, a Hong Kong delegate to the National People's Congress and a member of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, held a birthday banquet this Monday night (3 January). Over a hundred people attended, including 10 top government officials such as the Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of the Home Affairs Bureau and the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, the Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner of the ICAC. They went to the party one after another and stayed for various lengths of time. Later, the CHP found that an attendee, whose preliminary test result has shown to be positive, had arrived at the scene at 9:30 that evening. A search through the ''LeaveHomeSafe'' and Octopus Card systems and other records reveal that of the 10 high-ranking officials who attended the birthday celebration, 8 had already left before 9:30. The remaining two were Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang and Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui. The CHP has guidelines for the definition of a close contact, which include how long the stay was and whether there was any risky behaviour. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said yesterday (6 January) that the 9 officials including Au Ka-wang had all accepted the invitation to the party merely to pay a courtesy visit. The CHP did not list these 9 people as close contacts. Caspar Tsui, however, had taken off his mask that night to talk. That posed a risk, and he must be sent to quarantine at Penny's Bay.

The promotion of ethical political norms and proper supervision of administrative teams are prerequisites to good governance. As a massive Omicron outbreak can strike anytime, pandemic prevention is the top priority, and the government urgently needs to mobilise all of its available resources for it. Despite Caspar Tsui's position as Secretary for Home Affairs, his inappropriate actions have led to his consignation at Penny's Bay Quarantine Centre and thus, his absence at such a critical juncture; frustrating the anti-epidemic efforts. His performance in the incident has led to doubts about his judgement, and has let down the central government and the SAR government. He should resign of his own accord to fulfil the principle of accountability. As for the other officials that gathered at the party, the Chief Executive should also conduct a thorough follow-up investigation and explain how she will handle the matter. This should include whether anyone would resign or get the sack. The ongoing pandemic crisis began with an aircrew member, who, though his quarantine exemption, moved around the city in violation of in-house rules. Carrie Lam took the management of Cathay Pacific to task for their failure to supervise their employees. As for the birthday party incident, the officials who took part in it should no doubt take responsibility for their behaviour. But the Chief Executive also has a responsibility to supervise her subordinates—she cannot say that the incident had nothing to do with herself. The Chief Executive should tailor-make rules of COVID-19 etiquette for senior-ranking officials, setting out the matters that need to be avoided or paid attention to. Any violation of such regulations should result in punishment.

明報社評 2022.1.7:徐英偉拖抗疫後腿 失當行為須即下台



根據已知資料,港區人代、經民聯成員洪為民本周一舉辦生日晚宴,過百人出席,先後有10名政府高官到場,包括民政事務局和財經事務及庫務局的正副局長、警務處長、廉政專員等,各人逗留時間長短不等。事後衛生防護中心發現,當日有一名初步陽性感染者,於晚上9時半到場。翻查安心出行及八達通等紀錄,10名「賀壽」高官,有8人在9時半前已離開,其餘兩人分別是入境處長區嘉宏,以及民政局長徐英偉。衛生防護中心有指引界定密切接觸者,包括逗留時間及當時行為有無風險,行政長官林鄭月娥昨稱,區嘉宏等 9名官員,當日只是獲邀到場禮貌式打招呼,短暫逗留並無食飯,防護中心未將9人列為密切接觸者,但徐英偉有除下口罩交流,構成風險,須到竹篙灣檢疫隔離。


■/ Glossary 生字 /

courtesy visit:a formal or official visit, usually by one important person to another, just to be polite, not to discuss important business

norm:a situation or a pattern of behaviour that is usual or expected

prerequisite:something that must exist or happen before sth else can happen or be done


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