Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
You are almost 6 months old now.
The social movement that triggered by the anti-extradition bill have rocked the city for more than 24 weeks, and still shows no signs of abating. The Carrie Lam's Regime keep ignoring the public's opinion, not only did she failed to respond to the public’s “Five Demands”, even worse, on the 4th of October, Carrie Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) imposing an anti-mask law, i.e. the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation, to ban wearing of face masks in public gatherings. The Regime claims that the new anti-mask law would create a deterrent effect against masked protesters and would assist the Police in its law enforcement.
Ironically, ever since the regulation comes into force on the 5th of October, so far in the past 6 weeks, it just allowed the Police to legitimize their indiscriminate arrest of more young protesters, and to intimidate the press at the forefront without a sound reason. On the contrary, what actually happened is that the anti-mask law has stirred up the sentiment of both the peaceful, rational & non-violent protesters, and the "fighter" groups as well. As a result, the outcome of invoking the ERO does not correspond with the Regime's claimed deterrent effect. It only escalated a city-wide revulsion. The implementation of the anti-mask law is indeed a total failure.
In the past few months, it is crystal clear that Carrie Lam's Regime, in the name of “stopping the storm & restoring order”, makes every attempt to condone police brutality, i.e. allowing excessive & disproportionate use of force on protesters, tolerating torture & cruel treatment of detainees, depriving human rights of the arrested, and, even worse, acknowledging shooting of the unarmed at close range without warning. In addition, under the connivance of the incapable Regime, the Police is overtly authorized to twist and distort truth, and to justify wrong doings with victim blaming. Indeed, through the Police, Carrie Lam's Regime is "hegemonizing brutality & generating chaos" instead of restoring peace and social order.
We, health professional, are particularly heartbroken. It is noted that police brutality has been extended to healthcare arenas. They intrude into hospital wards to search and arrest protesters without notifications. Hence, not only daily clinical operations are being interfered, patients' right & privacy are being undermined, and personal safety of healthcare staff are being threatened as well. Besides, in the past weeks, the Police's indiscriminate arrest & raid against the protesters start to include voluntary first-aiders as well. While delivering emergency services to protesters, the first-aiders are unexpectedly being pepper sprayed, hit by tear gas or, even, being arrested. Recently, it is reported that the back of a first-aider is being burned by tear gas badly. The situation is utterly unbearable. With the arrest and injury of first-aiders, emergency rescue services could not be able to provide to those wounded protesters immediately, and on-site treatment is therefore compromised and unnecessarily delayed. Moreover, it is noted that the arrested protesters who are being sent to hospitals have been suffering from various degrees of injuries inflicted by the police. It is also not uncommon receiving complaints from protesters that their requests for medical attention are unreasonably being delayed or even ignored. Obviously, such malicious act of the Police is absolutely against the humanitarian principle.
In addition, it is also disappointed seeing that the management of some hospitals are not able to protect their patients and staff interests by allowing white terror spread over hospitals. Whistleblowing of patients' identity to facilitate arrests, discouraging colleagues who are out of their official working hour to attend political gathering within the hospital complex, and tearing down of “Lennon Walls" which have no effect on the daily operations become phenomenal in some hospitals. With that, regrettably, the public is overwhelmed by a perception that hospitals are no longer a safe place for receiving treatments. Consequently, it is sad to see that some of the injured protesters, who are scared that their identities could be unnecessarily being revealed, choose not to seek comprehensive medical interventions in hospitals, but go to the “Underground Clinics” only. Hence, professional healthcare services could, sadly, be compromised.
Is Hong Kong still a safe and healthy city? In October, a survey on mental health level of Hong Kong people conducted by the Chinese University indicated that an average score of 46.41 was recorded, which is the lowest since the annual survey on Hongkongers’ mental health was launched in 2012. The survey also reported that in 2018, around 18 per cent of respondents said their mental health was negatively affected by social disputes. But in 2019, that figure more than doubled to 41 per cent. Experts warned that the protests, which have lasted for more than five months, could trigger a mental health crisis. Besides, earlier on, a survey also found that 55.5% of respondents aged 15 to 24, and 49% of respondents aged 25 to 34 believed that the current social disputes had a very large or significant negative impact on their mental health status. The survey revealed that people are feeling helpless, despair and distress. In addition, recently, according to the “OASIS”, a counselling center for staff operated by the Hospital Authority, there is a surge of hospital staff seeking counselling services as the social movement goes on. A total of 1,651 staff attendances for the one-to-one counselling session is recorded from June to September. A 15 percent increase in the case load per month is also noted in July, August & September. The center found that most of these cases are worried about the situation in the city and issues on safety. Others are related to staff experiencing emotional distress and feeling hopeless & helpless. As to the causes, most of them are mainly resulted from different views or stance on politics between colleagues, and anger or agony towards the incapable government or the use of violence.
At this moment of time, we may feel helpless & frustrate, but we should not become hopeless. Few weeks ago, I was touched by a pledge that some voluntary first-aiders make declaration to themselves before going to the forefront. Having revised the wordings a bit, I would like to share with you as below:
"First-aiders & health professionals, whether we are at the forefront or in hospitals, we will uphold the principle of humanitarianism. Despite the background, occupation, race and social status of the injured, we will treat and care everyone equally and do no harm. We will exercise our professionalism with integrity and dignity. Though we may under tremendous pressure or even coercion, we will not abuse our professional knowledge and skills to hurt our patients, and violate human & civic rights. We will serve our patients with determination, professionalism and appropriate treatment. We will safe guard our patients' interests & privacy with no whistle blowing. We will observe the pledge solemnly and autonomously."
It is understood that many people in Hong Kong may be traumatized now, be it physical or psychological, and our home, Hong Kong, is in agony. We, health professionals, should stay tough, safe and be vigilant make every attempt to support Hong Kong recover and keep moving forward!