A Hong Kong lawmaker posed for a group photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the leader’s visit to the financial center this week. It was confirmed on Sunday that he has tested positive for coronavirus.
In his first trip outside of mainland China since the pandemic’s outbreak, Xi visited Hong Kong under strict security measures to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain. Steven Ho, is 42-year-old legislator from Hong Kong’s of the largest pro-Beijing party.
He was one of about 100 officials granted close contact with Xi for a photo call on Thursday afternoon. According to the photos released by the government, Ho was standing two rows directly behind Xi.
Lawmaker tested negative on the first day of Xi’s visit
The lawmaker tested negative on the first day of Xi’s visit on Thursday and returned an uncertain test on Friday.
He did not attend any events on Friday as a result of the uncertain test result, he stated in a social media statement.
“The July 1 sample had extremely low infectivity and was classified as uncertain. But for the sake of public safety, I did not participate in the events that day,” Ho wrote.
Ho was the second DAB party member to test positive during Xi’s visit. Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative to China’s top legislative body, tested positive on Thursday. He was not present at any of the events.
China’s Zero-COVID strategy
China is the only major economy that is still pursuing a zero-COVID strategy of eliminating outbreaks as they occur through quick lockdowns and mass testing.
Xi has not left China in nearly 900 days. Most outsiders are barred from entering the vast country.
Hong Kong is working on a lighter version of zero-COVID, but has maintained strict travel and gathering restrictions throughout the pandemic.
Last Wednesday, nearly 3,000 guests and staff members were required to check into two five-star hotels in Wan Chai. This was near the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Center, where anniversary events were held.
This was due to mandatory quarantine to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19.
Extraordinary precautions were taken to ensure that neither the coronavirus nor the political opposition were in Xi’s orbit during his visit to the city. It happened where a democracy movement has been crushed since massive protests three years ago.
Hundreds of government officials, legislators, and other invited guests were forced to participate in an anti-COVID “closed-loop” system.
It included limiting their social contacts, taking daily PCR tests, and staying in a quarantine hotel in the days preceding the visit.
Parts of the city were closed down during the visit. This prominent dissidents were placed under heavy police surveillance. Even multiple journalists were barred from covering official events.
The city’s national security police made nine arrests in the week leading up to Xi’s visit. Further, with at least two more arrests were made on Friday.
Lawmaker Ho’s infection raised concerns for Xi’s health
Concerns have been raised about Xi’s health as a result of Ho’s infection. “If President Xi is infected, the world will laugh because everyone was tested on a daily basis prior to the event.”
Many representatives are debating whether there is a human factor at work here or if something went wrong with the protocol.
Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole deputy to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, tested positive for Covid-19 on June 30.
Tam never met Xi. Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong delegate stated that he was not concerned that the infections would harm Xi’s perception of Hong Kong’s anti-epidemic efforts.
“I’m not concerned.” We were being checked on a daily basis,” he explained. “Only activities in which people remove their masks are considered high risk, but we were wearing our masks.”
On Sunday, when asked about a possible outbreak linked to the anniversary celebration, health officials said they would not comment on individual Covid-19 cases.