Fighting COVID-19: Social Capital and Community Mobilisation in Hong Kong


Purpose – Focussing on the early phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong, when the infection rate was relatively low, this paper aims to explore the role of social capital in fighting the novel coronavirus. Design/methodology/approach – This is a discussion paper that draws evidence from current scholarly literature and other commentaries, government policies and the personal observation of the author. The main conceptual tool used in the study is Szreter and Woolcock (2004) three-dimensional framework of social capital. Findings – This paper suggests that whilst the experience of fighting SARS as early as 2003 equipped Hong Kong people with adequate knowledge of virus prevention, efforts to control COVID-19 also benefited from social capital developed during the prolonged social protest since 2019. People belonging to the pro-democracy camp took the initiative to deliver facemasks and advocate hygiene measures in Hong Kong, demonstrating strong community mobilisation. This led to the emergence of bonding and bridging social capital (but not linking social capital) in local society, based substantially on similarity in political orientation. Originality/value – The use of Szreter and Woolcock (2004) three-dimensional framework for examining social capital provides a new perspective on the contribution of social network analysis to coronavirus protective measures.
Keywords Hong Kong, COVID-19, Social capital, Community capacity, Facemask, Preventive measures Paper type Viewpoint