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Lawyers looking up, residents locking down

Hong Kong, 3 February 2021: In future years, when the world reflects on 2020-21, the coronavirus pandemic – with its huge global death toll and accompanying economic havoc – will obviously dominate. Hongkongers may also remember it as a time of considerable political and social change. Me? Well, in addition to these seismic events, I will recall it as a period of significant growth and development for Boase Cohen & Collins.

We had the pleasure this week of announcing that two of our outstanding lawyers, Alice Cabrelli and Erica Chong, have been made Partners in the firm. Two more rising stars, Allison Lee and Henry Siu, are elevated to Senior Associate level. These promotions come after we had five twentysomethings admitted as solicitors last month, while four of our Trainee Solicitors are due to be admitted this year. Our newest Trainee has started with us this week while another will join in September.

When Mel Boase and I established this firm in 1985, we didn’t have a grand plan to expand organically over the decades and provide scores of aspiring young lawyers with a sound learning base and clear career path, it has just worked out that way. In all modesty, I believe we can be satisfied with the outcome. BC&C now has a large body of youthful, progressive and multi-talented lawyers, most of them locally born (and the majority of them female), poised to take the firm forward in future decades. In many ways, the make-up of our legal team fully reflects modern Hong Kong.

If we have young lawyers breaking down doors, metaphorically speaking, our police force may soon be doing the real thing. Irate government officials have warned officers will be empowered to force entry into homes to carry out mandatory Covid-19 tests of reluctant residents in locked down areas. They are also prepared to station security guards at cordoned off streets and hire bailiffs to assist in operations, with any uncooperative individuals footing the bill for this. These tough measures are being implemented because some citizens are refusing to answer the door when health workers come knocking, or trying to dodge through security cordons set up to prevent them leaving.

It marks an escalation in the authorities’ efforts to combat random outbreaks of the coronavirus as our city struggles to bring the so-called fourth wave under control. They are targeting specific areas in “ambush-style” lockdowns, requiring all residents to undergo tests and stay at home until all screenings are completed. Three zones, in Sham Shui Po, Yau Ma Tei and Tin Shui Wai, were shut down last night for about 12 hours, a day after similar operations were completed in four other areas. For the record, Hong Kong confirmed 25 new cases yesterday, the lowest daily total for almost a month, taking the tally of confirmed infections over the past year to 10,511 with 184 related fatalities. We are told to expect around 20 cases today.

There are also unconfirmed reports that education officials are weighing a further opening up of schools, allowing them to operate at one third capacity instead of the current one sixth. As I have stated previously, there is no scientific basis for the closure of our schools and maintaining effective education during this pandemic should be a priority. Currently, this government is failing our young people. There is also talk of allowing certain low-risk sports to resume, which could mean relief at last for our city’s long-suffering tennis players and golfers.

However, the good news we are all eagerly awaiting regarding Hong Kong’s mass vaccination programme is still not forthcoming. The 22.5 million doses the city has ordered appear to be stuck in the post, while emergency supplies from state-owned Sinopharm in China lack the clinical data required for approval here. Meanwhile, Israel (population 9.3 million, slightly more than Hong Kong) has carried out 55 vaccinations for every 100 of its citizens. The United Arab Emirates is second in the inoculation race at 34 per 100. Hong Kong is still in the starting blocks.

On this topic, it is worth noting that two more surveys here have revealed more than half those questioned are unwilling to be vaccinated. Our leaders continue to score low on the core issues of trust and communication. Once again, I’m grateful to Dr David Owens for providing an update on vaccines plus a riveting podcast with a Hong Kong doctor who has spent the past year working on the Covid-19 frontline in London.

Finally, may I send you all my good wishes for the forthcoming Year of the Ox. I will write again on 17 February after a short break which will include some hiking and fitness sessions. After all, I have to keep pace with all these dynamic young lawyers in our office. 

Stay safe and well, everybody!

Colin Cohen
Senior Partner
Boase Cohen & Collins

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