Hong Kong began free coronavirus testing for all residents in on Tuesday, as the mainland Chinese-led initiative faced scepticism from the city’s medical community and public.
The initiative is the first direct help from China’s health officials for the semi-autonomous city. In June, Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong, sparking violent protests and clashes with security forces. Rights activists say the tightening Chinese controls, including the new law, are smothering democracy.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the testing was necessary to find invisible transmissions within society: “Our power is from the central government’s authorization to Hong Kong,” she said. Her comments sparked concerns that the city has taken a more authoritarian turn.
Some democracy activists have suggested that people’s DNA will be collected and abused under the cover of testing. The government has dismissed that saying no samples would be taken out of the city.
Nearly 600,000 people have signed up for the free testing, in the city of 7.5 million residents. Authorities have said the volume of testing is due to increase to 500,000 a day from about 12,000 previously.