Hong Kong Expands Power to Isolate Individuals to Fight Chinese ‘Mystery Pneumonia’

A man suffering from pneumonia receives treatment in a ward at Wang Fu Hospital in Beijing on December 9, 2015. Seeking treatment for respiratory illnesses, Beijing hospital-goers complained on December 9 that their conditions were being worsened by toxic smog, now in its third day and which prompted authorities to …
WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced Tuesday she would expand the government’s power to isolate individuals from the general public if considered a health hazard in the wake of a viral pneumonia of unknown cause that reached the city from within China.

The Chinese Communist Party has documented 59 cases of pneumonia in the city of Wuhan in the past two weeks; Hong Kong has documented 30 cases within its borders of individuals falling ill who had previously visited Wuhan. Seven of the Wuhan patients are in critical condition. According to the broadcaster RTHK, the Chinese government has traced the cases back to a seafood market in Wuhan but have no identified the virus causing the respiratory illness. It has, however, ruled out the virus responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which killed 774 people in 2002.

The Chinese communist regime also claims it has ruled out Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and avian influenza, and has not yet matched a confirmed case of the new virus to any known existing virus.

Doctors have yet to confirm that any of the patients in Hong Kong are carrying the same virus as the individuals in Wuhan. No other city in China has documented a case, though the countries of Taiwan and Singapore have identified potential cases.

Wuhan is a central Chinese regional capital, home to 11 million and 19 million in the greater metro area.

A viral outbreak in Hong Kong could have devastating consequences at the moment given the regular mass protests occurring against communism in the city. The protests commonly attract tens of thousands of people and have repeatedly assembled upwards of a million residents, all marching in close quarters.

Lam announced expanded powers to restrain and isolate individuals after months of Hong Kong residents protesting that police were imprisoning non-criminal protesters for political reasons and demanding freedom for all those unjustly behind bars. Isolation would not occur in prison, of course, but would limit a person’s ability to move freely in the city to contain the virus.

Specifically, the government would expand its powers within the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance to give “legal powers to health authorities to isolate patients suspected of contracting an unidentified virus after visiting Wuhan,” RTHK reported. Lam also announced increased health inspections at border entry points and train stations connecting Hong Kong to China. As the virus remains unidentified, Hong Kong law will currently refer to it as “Severe Respiratory Disease associated with a Novel Infectious Agent” and automatically replace that text with a specific name once the virus is identified.

“Since the causative pathogen is still unknown, the prevention work focuses on identifying cases with possible exposure to the high-risk area, i.e. Wuhan, and promptly carrying out public health measures to prevent the spread of disease to Hong Kong,” a government spokesperson said on Tuesday. In addition to allowing the government to isolate individuals suspected of carrying the illness, the spokesperson added that Hong Kong authorities can ban the person from traveling outside the city.

The government moved to expand isolation powers even as the Chinese regime has yet to document human-to-human transition and no health workers treating the affected have exhibited respiratory symptoms. Lam also reportedly “urged people to beware of fake information circulating online;” the Chinese regime has reportedly censored discussion of the disease on the few legal social media outlets available.

According to reports citing what communist officials told the World Health Organization (WHO), some of those most severely affected appear to have been vendors or purchasers at the seafood market, indicating that a meat product is the source of the virus. Vendors at the now shut down market regularly sold game meat there.

The outbreak potentially affecting Hong Kong is a development that follows months of mass public assemblies, a significant health threat if doctors find evidence the virus can spread from person to person. Hong Kong residents began organizing protests in June in response to a proposed law that would have allowed China to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong into Chinese prisons if accused of violating Chinese communist law. Lam ultimately ordered the Legislative Council to withdraw the extradition bill, but protesters remained in the streets, now calling for the government to yield to four other demands: an end to calling the peaceful protests “riots,” the direct election of all lawmakers, an independent investigation into police brutality against protesters, and freedom for all political prisoners.

One million people took the streets for a protest marking the beginning of the new year last week against the Communist Party. On Sunday, 10,000 returned for what has become a scheduled weekly demonstration.

The march Sunday specifically urged action against Hong Kong traders who smuggle capitalist goods into China for profit, urging a full rupture of ties with the Communist Party. Many at the rally highlighted the need for the government to yield to the remaining four demands.

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