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Hong Kong should choose cohesiveness over individualism

Communities face a stark choice in fighting Covid, says top Hong Kong lawyer Ambrose Lam San-keung: either we follow mainland China’s united action to save lives, or the West’s preservation of individual rights to sacrifice the vulnerable

AS THE SPREAD of the Omicron variant continues to rise in Hong Kong, there has been much discussion about whether we should maintain a “dynamic zero” or a “living with the virus” policy approach to the situation.

While this pandemic started as a medical crisis, it has slowly evolved into a politicized issue. Despite the difficulties our government has faced in tackling the pandemic, I believe politicization of affairs has always been humanity’s method of facing reality. Although the enforcement of restrictions to our mobility and ordinary ways of life may appear to be undemocratic, I believe that using political means to address this virus is in the interest of “protecting life”, which we all strive towards.

Societies need to take action to care for their citizens: Photo by CDC on Unsplash


As countries around the world have politicized this pandemic, the flaws of the western ideologies of individualism, independence and democratic rights have become evident.

Due to the emphasis on ideals of acting in one’s own interest, western countries such as the United States, Canada, and many European countries have been unable to implement anti-epidemic measures effectively and instead have been faced with acts of mass disobedience and, in some cases, violence, demonstration, protest and destruction.

In the end, most western countries have resorted to “living with the virus”, which will continue to hurt these countries’ vulnerable and weak populations. As such, the western ideologies of individualism, independence and democratic rights have proven to be ineffective at rallying populations towards achieving a common cause such as “protecting life” during times of crisis.

In the West, there have been huge protests against restrictions against person freedoms. Photo by Naomi Mckinney on Unsplash


In contrast, I am in deep admiration of the collectivist mindset of the Chinese people, my fellow countrymen, who have been cooperative against our common enemy of the virus and acting as a family to achieve “dynamic zero”.

By prioritizing the interests of the collective over the individual, the Chinese people have achieved substantial accomplishments throughout our history. It is through collective struggle and effort that China was able to become the world’s factory, which in turn raised the social, economic, and educational well-being of the population to where it is today.


Similarly, collectivism has been beneficial to the people of Hong Kong, as it helped us face crises effectively and grow stronger, as we did in the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak.

As a result, it is the role of the government to step in and implement measures, which, although may appear as “politicization”, are in fact calls for the population to cooperate towards a common goal that is in the interest of the public good. It is through these collectivist efforts that we can emerge stronger from crises, unlike our western counterparts.


Sustaining a happy and healthy life is every person’s concern. Not just in the sense of surviving against the virus, but also in maintaining a fulfilling life characterized by social and economic stability and an optimistic outlook of the future.

In Wuhan, the community pulled together to build instant hospitals: picture by 汮汐 – Wikimedia Commons

As a result, we should embrace the government’s efforts in fighting the virus as they are merely trying to remind us of the need for collectivist efforts towards achieving our common goal of “protecting life”.

I encourage everybody to remind themselves that they are a member of our collective family, and it is through the sharing of resources and care that we can achieve great milestones for our community and country.


While I acknowledge that the Hong Kong people will face many undeniable difficulties due to the government’s anti-epidemic measures, we must cooperate by avoiding unnecessary contact and encouraging vaccinations. In the end, when we defeat the enemy, that is, this virus, our tireless cooperation will be rewarded with good health and many opportunities for the advancement of Hong Kong and our motherland. 

Ambrose Lam San-keung is one of Hong Kong’s best-known lawyers. He has served as a Legislative Council member and as President of the Law Society, and currently represents the legal sector in the government.

Image at the top shows a doctor in Malaysia and comes from Viki Mohamad on Unsplash

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