The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted privileges long enjoyed by most white and Western expats in the former British colony of Hong Kong. This sparked anger among much of the region’s majority Chinese population.
Anger peaked in August after Australian actress Nicole Kidman was allowed to escape strict quarantine when she arrived on a private jet to shoot Amazon Prime’s television drama “Expats”.
The seeds of anger have been there since the start of the pandemic at the start of last year, when many Westerners seemed less inclined to wear masks and practice physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 than Asians.
Policies enacted by local Beijing-backed governments have contributed to sentiment that the rich and powerful, many of whom are white, receive special treatment.
In June, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam offered quarantine exemptions to senior financial executives who were already fully vaccinated to “revive the Hong Kong economy.” Bloomberg reported the city halted the plan weeks after it was announced, and the government later confirmed that only two of the more than 150 applications were approved.
Michael Tien, a member of the pro-establishment Hog Kong Legislative Council, questioned the treatment of Kidman, who is exempt from a strict rule that entrants are required to quarantine in an approved hotel for 21 days.
“Even our Olympic athletes from the Tokyo Olympics have to be quarantined for seven days,” he told a Legislative Council meeting. “Now that you have set a precedent, does that mean that all foreign film stars will be released when they fly to Hong Kong to make films?” Tien asked.
Officials justified Kidman’s exclusion on the grounds that he was in Hong Kong “for the purpose of carrying out designated professional work, taking into account the situation conducive to maintaining necessary activities and Hong Kong’s economic development.” [my/ka]