When President Hu Jintao toured Shenzhen in mid-April, the Sars outbreak was putting a heavy strain on Hong Kong's health-care system. Faced with a surge in the number of Sars patients, our public hospitals' small stock of masks, protective gowns and goggles, normally reserved for staff and patients at scarcely used infection wards, quickly ran out. Medical workers who witnessed more and more of their colleagues falling victim to the Sars virus were greatly distressed that they were not getting adequate protection because of stretched supplies. Mr Hu's prompt decision to accept Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's request for assistance in procuring such supplies was therefore greatly appreciated by the people of Hong Kong. It was the most tangible expression of the central government's support for the special administrative region. On the instructions of the central leadership, co-operation between Hong Kong and Guangdong was also enhanced. Health checks at the border crossings were introduced and two renowned herbalists from Guangzhou arrived early this week to pass on their knowledge of using traditional Chinese medicine to treat Sars patients. Now that the supplies of protective gear have arrived, it is ironic that the outbreak has eased in Hong Kong, but not in the mainland, where Sars is spreading to more and more cities and provinces. As Mr Tung said in his speech at the delivery ceremony, the generous gift from the central government was equally needed by health workers and patients on the mainland. Indeed, it is odd that Hong Kong, the most affluent part of the nation, should have received aid from the central government, which has the onerous responsibility of looking after the medical needs of a far greater number of patients who are a lot poorer than the average citizen here. In the past, more often than not, the mainland has been on the receiving end of generosity from Hong Kong. Whenever floods, earthquakes and other disasters have struck around the nation, the people of Hong Kong have been quick to raise funds to help. Had Sars not hit Hong Kong as hard as it has, the community would likely have done the same to help the mainland's fight against the disease. Under 'one country, two systems', Hong Kong is absolved of responsibility for paying taxes to the central government. It is a privilege that is not publicly discussed, but the subject of quiet jealousy among many on the mainland. Although Beijing has already budgeted seven billion yuan to fight Sars and pledged that money would not be a problem, Hong Kong should, as more than a gesture of goodwill, try to return the central government's favour by offering our assistance where it is most needed in the mainland's fight against Sars.