Play fair with HK travelers

Editorial | Mary Ma 2 Jul 2021

The indiscriminate ban on all passenger flights from the UK to Hong Kong has left numerous students stranded, unprepared for an abrupt lock-out that should not have been given the green light in the first place.

Instead, the government should have limited the flights to carrying Hong Kong residents only.

The decision instantly threw parents into a panic, making them desperate to find temporary accommodation for their children to stay for the summer in the UK.

The decision also means airlines will miss another peak season and hoteliers face huge losses.

Meanwhile, another equally challenging case is under way as Hong Kong and Macau were reported to be near making a deal on the reopening of so-called "quarantine-free" travel between the two SARs.

At a press conference on their local pandemic situation, Macau government officials were positive that travel would resume if Hong Kong saw no more infections with unknown sources, with some dropping the hint that this could come as soon as July 11.

While this should be good news to residents on both sides of the estuary, a touchy question is that the conditions set by Macau are reported to be tough - and even humiliating - to many Hongkongers.

According to the reports, Hongkongers arriving in Macau will each be given a color code different from those currently in use in Macau.

Worse still, they will be banned from using bars, swimming pools and saunas, although restaurants will still be open to them.

Clearly, it is possible that all Macau has in mind is the cash Hongkongers will bring to the casino tables. Will these really be the conditions when the two sides announce the agreement?

Under normal circumstances, the protocol would demand reciprocity in a cross-border arrangement such as this.

So will visitors from Macau be given a special color stamp on the hand and not be allowed to use bars, swimming pools and saunas at the hotels they will be staying at?

These will be the questions that the SAR government can expect when the travel pact is announced.

Despite occasional reports of some cases, Hong Kong has maintained one of world's the best pandemic control records.

For example, the European Union has included Hong Kong on its list of quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated visitors.

If the reports are correct, the conditions due to be set by Macau for the Hong Kong-Macau travel bubble will be unnecessary.

While both SARs are making comparable progress in vaccinating their people, Hong Kong authorities are obliged to guide the Hong Kong-Macau talks to progress on an equal footing.

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