in Hong Kong, the expatriate community in the hot seat

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In Hong Kong, Western expatriates are accused of not respecting the rules of social distancing and of freeing themselves from wearing masks, while all the pharmacies in the city offer them.

While the number of coronavirus contaminations has risen sharply in recent days in Hong Kong, from 150 cases recorded on March 15 to 672 cases – and 31 deaths – on March 28, expatriates present in the special administrative region from China accused of not taking the pandemic seriously enough, bring it back South China Morning Post.

The English daily newspaper, which evokes a “Cultural divide” between Hong Kongers and Western expatriates, quotes several testimonies from parents whose children, recently returned from India, Canada or Australia, have been invited to parties or “sleepovers” in disregard of sanitary rules. “I was scared, says a mother. A sleepover is the last thing to do right now! ”

“These Westerners who walk around without masks!”

These accounts are indicative of the growing anger in Hong Kong over the reaction of some to the crisis, the newspaper said:

This anger is partly directed against expatriates, who are often perceived – rightly or wrongly – as the most reluctant to respect social distancing or to wear masks. ”

Many expatriates who had left Hong Kong at the end of January when the epidemic hit the region, chose to return when it appeared to be under control, on the eve of March 19, the date from which the government announced that all new arriving should respect a quarantine.

Gold “Most of the new cases that have appeared in the last two weeks are linked to stays abroad” and a certain number were even able to be put in direct contact with Lan Kwai Fong, this district with alleys lined with bars and clubs particularly appreciated by expatriates and tourists – and where the wearing of the mask is far from being in force. Hence the latest decisions taken by the authorities (since March 25, non-residents are no longer allowed to enter the territory) and the controversy, summarized by this title of the daily The Apple Daily, which caused a sensation: “Westerners walk around without masks!”

Two parallel universes

Since the 2003 SARS epidemic, wearing a mask has become “Like second nature” for Hong Kongers, analyzes lawyer and essayist Jason Y-Ng on the site Hong Kong Free Press :

For us, it’s like covering your mouth when you sneeze or removing your shoes before entering a house. These days, at the bank, supermarket or on the street, you will be hard pressed to find a maskless face. ”

Except in “Enclaves of expatriates” like Mid-Levels, Sheung Wan or Discovery Bay, where many Westerners can be seen naked, even though masks are available (after a short initial episode of shortage) in all pharmacies in the city:

At lunchtime in the center, when office workers of all origins eat their meals on the go, the contrast between Hong Kongers and foreigners is so striking that it seems that the two communities live in parallel universes . ”

Two reasons may explain the casualness displayed by some expatriates, according to Joël, a French expatriate who admits having taken time to adopt the mask himself. On the one hand, most expatriates did not experience the painful SARS epidemic in 2003 – nearly 2,000 cases of infection in Hong Kong and 299 deaths. On the other hand, neither the Americans nor the Europeans are used to living in areas as densely populated as Hong Kong and they underestimate the consequences of such a situation.

In addition, the expatriates did not come to Hong Kong with their elderly parents, adds Jason Y-Ng. However, it is common for three generations of Hong Kongers to share the same small apartment. “As the elderly are the most exposed to the current epidemic, the local population must be much more vigilant not to bring germs home”, insists the columnist, who concludes by imploring the expatriates of Hong Kong:

Please, for the good of your families and your fellow citizens, put on a mask!


Launched in April 2016 and intended for French expatriates and expatriation candidates, Courrier Expat offers information drawn from the international press on the professional and personal environment of French people abroad, on the


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