Hong Kong protesters celebrate police officer's coronavirus infection with Kiwi wine

It appears the act was in retaliation to a comment made by another police officer in November last year.
It appears the act was in retaliation to a comment made by another police officer in November last year. Photo credit: Reddit

At first glance it may seem that coronavirus, Hong Kong protesters and New Zealand wine have very little in common. 

But after a police officer in Hong Kong was infected with COVID-19 - the official name for coronavirus - a bottle of New Zealand bubbly has played a surprising role in a controversy that has split the internet. 

The 48-year-old officer was confirmed to have been infected with the virus on Thursday last week. His wife and mother were also showing symptoms and 59 other police officers who had been at a large dinner party with the man were placed in quarantine.

After news of the officer's infection was made public, protesters were seen celebrating - in one case with a bottle of Oyster Bay sparkling wine.

Police officers in Hong Kong have become increasingly unpopular with many residents after protests exploded last year demanding less interference from China. 

But the fact that the officer's infection was celebrated by many has caused outrage online. 

According to the South China Morning Post, around 50 people gathered on Friday at the landmark shopping centre in Central to celebrate the officer's coronavirus infection. The demonstrators placed a dozen Corona beers on the ground and invited passersby to "feel free to take a beer and join our celebration". 

"The police are now paying for their brutality in the past months in handling protests," the protest's co-organiser David Li told the South China Morning Post. "We finally have something to be happy about amid the virus outbreak."

In one photo shared online, instead of drinking Corona beer, protesters can be seen celebrating with a bottle of Oyster Bay sparkling wine. 

According to someone who shared the photo on Reddit, the image was taken outside the North Point police station.  

The image was greeted with both praise and disgust.

"Karma!" wrote one person.

"I think we opened the champagne a little bit too early, they are not dead yet," wrote another. "I will open two if one of the police is dead."

Others found the act abhorrent. 

"Definitely seems to be in poor taste," wrote someone. 

"Celebrating that somebody got infected or even died is just wrong. No matter what he did before," added someone else. "Don't get yourself dragged down to the level of your opposite."

Others weighed in to point out that New Zealand was contributing to the situation by providing the wine.

"It's a bottle of New Zealand bubbly. Pretty good taste for reasonable money," one person commented.

Oyster Bay has been approached for comment. 

It appears the act was in retaliation to a comment made by another police officer in November last year. According to the South China Morning Post, the officer said he would celebrate "with champagne" after a university student lost his life after falling four metres from a car park during a protest.

Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 after 99 years of British rule. But despite a deal to retain its own economic and legal systems - and effectively remain independent - until 2047, many Hong Kongers say their freedoms are slowly being eroded.

The protests - often violent - were sparked last year after Hong Kong's government proposed a new bill that would allow the extradition of people suspected of committing crimes to countries that did not have extradition treaties with Hong Kong. Included in those countries was mainland China. 

Although Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam eventually backed down from the bill, it proved a catalyst, igniting fears that many Hong Kongers had over China's increasing influence in the territory.