CE’s Office responds to ex-official’s banquet letter

The Chief Executive’s Office has responded to a letter on Tuesday in the South China Morning Post by the former permanent secretary for home affairs Raymond Young Lap-moon.

Young had asked what rules senior officials had broken by attending a birthday party for NPC deputy Witman Hung at a Spanish restaurant in Wan Chai on January 3.

Two people infected with Covid had joined the party – which had about 180 attendees – leading to the quarantining of some of those present, including the Secretary for Home Affairs, Caspar Tsui.

Later the Chief Executive Carrie Lam criticised those who had attended because of the Omicron threat. But, in his letter, Young also mentioned that the CE had briefly attended a wedding banquet.

In its letter to the Post, the Chief Executive’s Office said Young had apparently not been following the epidemic situation – especially with regard to the first local case of the Omicron variant, on December 30. It said, prior to this, Hong Kong had had a long period with no local cases and many social activities and events had resumed. But it said the situation quickly deteriorated on December 30 when the Centre for Health Protection announced two preliminary positive cases involving customers at the Moon Palace Restaurant.

The office said the following day, the Secretary for Food and Health, Sophia Chan, warned of the risks posed by Omicron and had advised people to avoid mass gatherings. It said senior public officials were expected to heed such advice and set a good example.

The office’s letter said there were clear legal requirements for restaurants – including maximum seating capacity, distancing, and use of the Leave Home Safe app.

On the subject of Lam attending a banquet, the CE’s office said this had taken place well before the onset of Omicron – and she had only been at the banquet for about ten minutes to offer her congratulations.