Hong Kong Special Administration Region - Chief Executive
繁體简体列印Default Font SizeLarger Font SizeLargest Font Size
Press Releases
Speeches and Articles
Photos and Videos
Executive Council
Site Map
My Blog
Government House
Brand HK
Level Double-A conformance, W3C WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
Web Accessibility Recognition Scheme

Letter to Hong Kong

My fellow Hong Kong people,

There are things that we do not want to remember, and yet cannot forget. Ten years ago, Hong Kong was struck by an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), infecting more than 1 700 people and killing about 300. Hong Kong was declared an infected area by the World Health Organization. School was suspended, face masks sold out and the number of reported cases was updated daily. Those were days that none of us want to see again.

As this year is the 10th anniversary of the SARS outbreak, there have been many special features in the media lately based on SARS stories that happened a decade ago. While it is saddening to go over these stories again, we should cherish and pass on the spirit of selfless dedication and unity displayed by Hong Kong people at that time.

During the SARS outbreak, our healthcare and research teams risked their lives to identify the source of the deadly disease and to save those infected. In the face of danger and challenges, our civil service and the staff of social welfare agencies, public bodies and schools remained undaunted and worked doggedly on the front line. Indeed, the whole community stayed alert and united in preventing the spread of the disease.

There were many stories that reflected the bright side of human nature during the crisis, and they are still fresh in our memories. Let me share one with you. Ten years ago, Amoy Gardens was the place hardest hit by SARS in Hong Kong. Investigation showed that the outbreak in that estate was mainly caused by the removal of U-traps from bathtub drains, thus allowing the virus to spread from one flat to another through the pipes.

At that time, members of the Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services, me included, wanted to join the fight against SARS. We therefore took the initiative to contact Mr Yip Hing-kwok, Chairman of the Amoy Gardens Owners Joint Committee, through Legislative Council member the Honourable Chan Kam-lam, and convened a meeting between representatives of Amoy Gardens residents and members of professional bodies in sectors including architecture, surveying, engineering and legal services. We came up with a new drainage design and offered to replace, free of charge, the drains in Block E where the outbreak was most serious, to prevent the possible spread of viruses through them. At first, no contractor was willing to enter Amoy Gardens, but finally some big-hearted contractors and workers concerned about the residents' safety took the risk of carrying out the works. All the participating professionals volunteered their services with a shared vision of overcoming SARS as soon as possible, as well as a common spirit of sticking together with all Hong Kong people through thick and thin. This incident demonstrates that as long as we work together with one heart and one vision, we can overcome any difficulties.

Over the past decade, the Government has come a long way in strengthening its capacity to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks, including setting up the Centre for Health Protection, building Hong Kong's first infectious disease centre at Princess Margaret Hospital and enhancing its statutory authority to enforce more effectively disease prevention and control measures. Apart from government efforts, we also need the co-operation of individuals in maintaining good personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness to minimise the chance of diseases spreading.

Although 10 years have passed, those Hong Kong people who sacrificed themselves in the SARS outbreak still live in our hearts. A few days ago I went to Gallant Garden together with the Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man, the Chairman of the Hospital Authority Mr Anthony Wu and other colleagues to lay wreaths in honour of six healthcare staff who died in service fighting SARS. We will always remember them and all the others who gave their lives on behalf of the community. Every word they spoke and every act they made in the battle against SARS emanated kindness, perseverance, single-mindedness and bravery, and they have touched and influenced innumerable Hong Kong people.

Hong Kong society has undergone many changes over the past decade. But no matter what, we must not give up the spirit of selfless dedication and unity that we upheld 10 years ago. Today we have many long-standing social problems to solve. But so long as every one of us works for the common good, we can solve any numbers of problems.

C Y Leung

March 30, 2013