A Letter to the Elderly and Young people of Hong Kong by Arisina Ma Chung-Yee
It is easy to reverence those with power. It is even easier to treat generously those who are valuable and supportive, since it is only human nature. The only thing that tells one about the civilisation and morality of a nation is how the regime treats the weak, those who criticise and condemn, and those who defy. Today, I would like to talk about my take on the predicament of the elderly and youth in Hong Kong.
The care and support services for the elderly in Hong Kong have been lagging quite far behind other developed countries. Many families cannot take care their senior members, and significant number of the elderly are residing in elderly homes. The Code of Practice for Residential Care Homes for Elderly (RCHE), which regulates the operation of elderly homes, was stipulated in the 80s. The regulations have been lenient and loose to allow private elderly homes to prosper. The demand for better quality, government subsided places in subvented homes, far exceeds the supply. Most elderly could only reside in shabby private homes where they were sometimes poorly treated. Despite the frequent occurrence of incidents and negligence, the families of the elderly could only choke with silent fury, since the wait for government subsidized places seemed endless. The Social Welfare Department rarely imposed punishments on residential homes that violated the regulations or replaced them with reputed ones. To shorten the more than 30-month long wait for subvented elderly care services, the government eagerly launched the pilot scheme of residential care service vouchers in 2017, hoping that the elderly would opt for government purchased private home places under the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme [EBPS] of Social Welfare Department. Compared to the worst private elderly homes that charge an overwhelmingly low fee, those government purchased private home places are seems to be decent, but their services are of diverse and inconsistent quality. Recently, the press has reported that an older adult residing in an elderly home was mistakenly given anti-diabetics medication, resulting in health consequences. That elderly home, which was under the higher standard category of EBPS, was also reported to have a rodent infestation.
The Code of Practice did not explicitly state the mandatory requirements concerning air quality and infection control. Outbreaks of seasonal flu or other infectious diseases were found in elderly homes every year. The third wave of COVID-19 has also spread across dozens of elderly homes in Hong Kong. The elderly are the most innocent yet the most affected by the epidemic. They did not attend vibrant social gatherings nor travel abroad nor benefit from economic activities. Yet most COVID-19 patients are older adults, among which some have unfortunately passed away. Even some were not infected, those who were living in elderly homes with outbreak were woken up and brought to quarantine facilities in the middle of night. Most service providers of elderly homes imposed stringent visitation rules, all face-to-face visits by family members were terminated, the elderly were separated from their families for months. Many day care centers suspended their services for infection control reason, the elderly deprived of the community support and rehabilitation services they had the right to receive. How did the government officials respond to these? There was no apology, no condolence, not even a promise to evaluate the residential care services for the elderly.
It has been more than a year since the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement began. The movement has left a deep wound on the young people. Some were hindered academically, some injured physically or psychologically, some lost their freedom behind bars, some were exiled and some (whose names were known as well as those who were not) have even lost their lives because of the movement. Last year, two young protestors, a six former and a diploma student, were shot with live ammunition by the police. Fortunately, they have escaped from the grip of the Grim Reaper but the injury left severe health consequences and now they have to go on lengthy trials as well. Although the young people should face legal responsibilities for disrupting social order, the police are also expected to treat them fairly and professionally, it is obviously not what we observed. Out of disappointment and fear, some people have parted ways with their families and friends and left Hong Kong for good. Twelve Hong Kong citizens, among which some are underage, were detained by mainland police in Yantian, Shenzhen for allegedly crossing the border. Although the 12 citizens attempted to flee to Taiwan are involved in pending criminal cases in Hong Kong, the government should show concern for their well-being in Shenzhen and provide their families with adequate assistance.
Not only do those in political power have no mercy for the younger generation, they are also resentful towards the professionals who have helped the young people, spoken up for social justice and criticized the government. Health care workers, the press, social workers, religious figures and legal professionals have all been attacked by the politically influential government officials. Those in power never reflected on their shortcomings in governance. Instead, they blame the educators for instigating the youth and aggressively suppress them to ensure no educator would ever teach the students to think critically and independently.
Dear seniors and young people, it has surely been difficult just to live a life in Hong Kong nowadays. The circumstances might have left you feeling very devastated. We could not quite see the light at the end of the tunnel yet but with conscience, HongKongers will unite and get through this bumpy ride together with you.