HK lockdown: from pork to packaging to lack of vegetarian options, residents upset over food supplied

27-Jan-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 7:22 AM Print This Post

Residents inside a locked down Hong Kong neighbourhood have expressed concerns about their food supplies, with some raising questions over the inclusion of pork, a lack of vegetables, and no hot meals in packages from the government.

Some 10,000 people have been sealed off since 4am on Saturday in the Yau Tsim Mong district, as officials carry out emergency testing for Covid-19.

With members of ethnic minorities and a significant number of elderly people living in the some 200 buildings under lockdown, the food being provided has been brought into question.

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In response, senior Hong Kong officials said they had been delivering meals to the needy, and included non-meat options in food packages, offering items such as bread, snacks and fruit.

The government said workers at temporary stations would supply each resident with a light meal that included instant noodles, drinks, and fruit. A bottle of hand sanitiser and a box of masks were also provided.

But resident, Jordan-Manik Mohammad, who is originally from Bangladesh and lives within the testing zone on Temple Street, said pork items, such as canned spam, were not suitable for him as a Muslim.

Even if they were, Mohammad said he lacked the means to open them, as he does not own a can opener.

Instead the 33-year-old, and his flatmate, have been eating food they bought before the restrictions were imposed at 4am on Saturday.

“But it is nearly finished, so we are just waiting,” he said. “I don’t know what to do because we cannot go outside.”

Other residents, such as Shova Gurung, who is from Nepal, are vegetarian.

“I had my shopping done beforehand so I am still cooking my own vegetables, but if the lockdown gets extended then I will run out of my vegetables soon,” the waitress, who works in Causeway Bay, said. “But at least they have provided food for us.”

Mohammad Ilyas, Secretary for the Islamic Community Fund for Hong Kong, said they were consulting police and other related departments to provide proper food for members of ethnic minorities.

“I think they should be more sensitive towards taking care of the non-Chinese community,” he said.

However, Adeel Malik, from the Muslim Council of Hong Kong, said they understood the need to be patient because the measures were just for two days.

“In reality, of course, we would like ethnic minorities to be better catered for, but the fact there is canned fish that’s fine. One protein is there,” he said.

A resident of Indian ethnicity who lives on Temple Street, and asked to be known as Naresh, said as a Hindu he, his wife, and three children, could only eat the non-meat items in the packages.

“We didn’t take pork items, just noodles and bread and some fruit too,” said the 35-year-old, who runs an Indian restaurant.

His family received their negative Covid-19 results on Sunday and had stayed inside for the past two days.

Naresh was hopeful he would be able to open the restaurant on Monday, but worried the drastic measures might scare off customers at a time when his business was already suffering, and he was paying staff out of his own pocket.

In a media briefing on Sunday morning, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung was asked why luncheon meat was included in food packages when many residents do not eat pork.

“It’s because we did not only give food to people from different ethnic minority backgrounds,” Cheung said. “We did not target any group, and there’s fish, noodles and many different types of food.

“There were also different types of canned food, such as tuna… soup packs, white bread, chocolate and muesli bars and fruits. These are for residents to take freely.”

After the lockdown began, district councillors, including Owan Li, said some elderly residents struggled with even basic cooking, with some unable to eat canned meat as they did not have the means to open it.

“These elderly people rely heavily on social workers to deliver food and other resources, but the social workers can no longer enter the area,” he said. “They can’t even cook instant noodles, not to mention they might not have can openers. The government should have considered delivery of hot dishes.”

Li said some residents, who did not have food at home, waited up to four hours to receive the items after they had called a government hotline.

Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai said hot food was being delivered to those in need.

“As you know in Hong Kong, we do have meal services for the needy, those with special needs, and the elderly. During this lock down operation, we do provide such a service,” he said.

“For special cases, we will be on the ground to handle them. So, we try to accommodate them as best as we can.”

But Li’s council colleague, Frank Ho Fu-wing, who represents the hard-hit area of Jordan North, said people were not talking about the continued meal service for the needy, but hot food for other residents.

“The sensitivity to the demands of the elderly and the ethnic minority is, I think, not enough,” he said. “Some among the ethnic minority community have told me they would like to have some rice, and some people do not eat pork. We have seen the government still make this mistake again.”

As of 6.30pm, residents who tested negative for the virus could leave and re-enter the locked down area provided they wear an official wristband, according to the Home Affairs Secretary Caspar Tsui. All restrictions were expected to be lifted by midnight.


Category: Hong Kong

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