Hong Kong must step out of the darkness and embrace coronavirus vaccines
- Eroding English standards, mistrust of the government and echo chamber chat forums have all contributed to the refusal to get vaccinated
- Education and honest information that transcends borders are needed to end the delusion and bring Hong Kong into the light
Singapore and Hong Kong, two places frequently compared with their majority Chinese population and statistical similarities, differ vastly on this issue.
Vaccinations are a necessary global deterrent to global pandemics. This is how a scourge like smallpox was eradicated – with determined, often compulsory inoculations at schools and hospitals. The US Supreme Court weighed in on this in 1905, comparing vaccinations in a health emergency to conscriptions during war.
While commonplace now for measles, mumps or flu, it was not an easy route for vaccinations. In India, laws for compulsory vaccinations were enacted from 1870, though this did not blunt superstition and Brahmin opposition.
In South Africa in 1913, Mahatma Gandhi, a forward-thinking lawyer who would later take on the British Empire, unequivocally described vaccinations as “sacrilege”.
Early Indian tikadars entrusted with the unsavoury task of variolation – using agents from an infected person to inoculate a healthy one – were bought off by the wealthy and encouraged to abandon their profession. Vaccine mandates are rare today.
Earlier in the pandemic, there were fears that testing and vaccines were a nefarious attempt to grab citizens’ DNA, something that could be easily accomplished by visiting any barbershop or hairdresser to sweep up their hair.
With all the CCTV cameras from London to Beijing and facial-recognition AI, living stealthily under the government radar is not really an option.
“But Hong Kong is safe,” people tell me, “and there are side effects, too.” To this I simply say, read the international news – not echo chamber chat forums – and look at Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand or India.
Social media feeds on fear, and these clicks determine the online discourse, not truth or the facts.
The Hong Kong government must set out its public relations stall with speed and imagination. Hongkongers need to be brought into contact with the rest of the world through television shows, news and advertising as a social service and through greater use of English. This is something Singapore excels at.
Hong Kong – “Asia’s World City” – needs to step out of the gopher hole and into the light.
Vijay Verghese is a Hong Kong-based journalist, newspaper columnist and the editor of AsianConversations.com and SmartTravelAsia.com