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Thursday, Jan 20, 2022

Reuniting families should be priority in border reopening

Reuniting families should be priority in border reopening

Authorities should reserve more than half of the quota in the initial phase of border reopening with Guangdong province for reuniting families and people with special needs, the Society for Community Organization said on Sunday.
This came as more than 336,000 citizens have rushed to register their Hong Kong health code accounts as sources said the cross-border travel with Guangdong could be resumed on Christmas Eve at the earliest.

In a press conference held together with grassroots families, SoCo’s deputy director Sze Lai-shan said 100,000 Hongkongers used to cross the border daily before the Covid-19 pandemic, and 80 percent of Hongkongers have relatives and friends in the mainland.

However, the closure of the border has separated people from meeting their other half, parents and children for almost two years,she said.

Sze said grassroots citizens were happy when they heard the border could be reopened soon.

“But they were all disappointed when sources said the priority of cross-border travel will be given to businessmen,” she said, adding that businessmen have many ways to be exempted from quarantine but grassroots citizens can only rely on the quota allocated by the government.

Sze said many people have urgent needs involving the health conditions of their family members and financial issues.

A bakery store worker Chen Haiyan, 49, said she has not visited her 93-year-old father and mother in her 80s in Sichuan province for two years.

Chen said her father is suffering from brain bleeding and lung disease, and that he can only lie in bed and eat liquid food. However, there was no one to take care of him except Chen’s mother, who also has cataracts.

Chen said she used to visit her parents every year but she cannot afford the quarantine cost.

“I work in a bakery and earn HK$10,000 per month,” Chen said. “If I want to go back home, I have to be quarantined for 21 days in Shenzhen and another 14 days in Sichuan, and the quarantine fee in Shenzhen alone already costs my salary for a month.”

“[My father] is missing me every day and wondering when he can see me again. He always asks me when I can return home. I also want to take care of my father and see him every day,” Chen said in tears.

She urged the government to allow grassroots citizens to return to the mainland without quarantine as soon as possible.

Chen added she did not know how to apply for a health code because she doesn't know how to use a smartphone and required assistance.

A single mother whose father died at the end of last month also said she and her six-year-old daughter have not returned home to mourn and attend the funeral because she cannot afford the quarantine cost.

“My daughter and I want to go back [for my father’s funeral] but we cannot. I also got vaccinated because I want to return home without quarantine after the resumption of cross-border travel,” she said.

Sze said the government should not allocate most of the cross-border travel quota to the business sector. Instead, half of the quota should be reserved for family visits and people with special needs, including those who have to attend funerals and lawsuits.

The organization also proposed launching a “score system” to assess the urgency of people who wish to cross borders and give priorities to those with higher scores.
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