Loo paper run puts sanity in the sewer

Editorial | Mary Ma 18 Feb 2020

It's got to be the strangest robbery of modern times. My jaw dropped when news broke that a gang of armed robbers stole hundreds of toilet rolls being delivered to a supermarket's storeroom in Mong Kok.

Toilet rolls? How much can they be worth?

That's bad enough - but it's not the only weird thing happening in Hong Kong of late.

I have to almost reluctantly agree with Bloomberg's Clara Marques, who recently wrote an astonishing commentary saying Hong Kong - long praised as the Pearl of the Orient - has been showing symptoms of a failed state.

Has Hong Kong fallen to become a failed state like Venezuela? I don't think so.

But there is little doubt that the SAR's brand as a first-class metropolis is in jeopardy due to the administration's poor handling of matters of grave local concern over the past months.

Yesterday's rebound of the Hang Seng Index - recouping most of the losses suffered the day it reopened after an extraordinary Lunar New Year holiday break - suggests the city is still an international financial center trusted by investors.

However, I find it difficult to disagree with the Bloomberg writer's observation that the SAR no longer looks like an advanced global financial hub given the daily runs on surgical masks and bleach solution at first, quickly followed by rice and groceries. And then toilet rolls!

This does not bode well for Hong Kong's international image.

It's small wonder some residents returning from Western countries including Britain and Australia after the Lunar New Year holidays said Hong Kong has become increasingly strange to them - no longer the place of their memories.

Is the current administration still able to run the city to the high standards we all want to see? That's a very serious question being raised by more and more people.

Runs on toilet paper were sparked by an audio recording that went viral on social media. It claimed toilet rolls would be in short supply after mainland cities were locked down to prevent the novel coronavirus epidemic from spreading.

Wellcome, the supermarket chain targeted by the gang yesterday, insisted supplies of toilet rolls are more than enough.

I believe the supermarket, but I fear that long queues will continue to form and shelves will be emptied as soon as they are refilled with rolls - unless the supermarkets are able to refill their shelves as quickly as they are cleared.

But that will place a huge burden on manpower that private companies will find nearly impossible to overcome.

Things will only improve when reason is once again allowed to reign and the masses are persuaded to accept the fact that they can go to the toilet as usual without the fear of not having toilet paper to complete the job.

Our public health system is robust - in fact, one of the world's strongest. Yet unless the population rebuilds its trust in policymakers, the ridiculous runs on essential basic items will go on.

It's just insane. Whatever happened to governance?

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