You may think Hong Kong people look irrational in these days of coronavirus: they queue for hours for masks, even if many doctors repeat that, in most situations, they are not all that necessary or even helpful. They stock up on hand wipes, bleach and disinfectant, leaving shelves empty. They buy up all the toilet paper and tissues they can find, just upon a rumor that circulates online and in telephone chat groups warning supplies from China might run short.
But this behavior isn’t proof of an illogical and superstitious population: call it the consequences of trauma.
Hong Kong is on edge as it waits to see if the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,000 people in mainland China, will spread in the territory, where it has already killed one man and infected nearly 50 . People don’t believe they can count on the government, either the one here in Hong Kong or the one in Beijing, to keep them safe and tell them the truth. That lack of trust between thecity’s people and the local and central authorities runs deep, and worsened last year over more than six months of protests that rocked Hong Kong. The events of 17 years ago were responsible for cementing that distrust, when Hong Kong found itself alone for weeks as a mysterious new virus killed hundreds while central authorities in Beijing remained silent.
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