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Nicole Kidman among 5 film crew members granted quarantine waiver, Hong Kong government says after actress' shopping sparks outcry

Nicole Kidman among 5 film crew members granted quarantine waiver, Hong Kong government says after actress' shopping sparks outcry
The government of Hong Kong landed in hot water by allowing people shooting a TV series for Amazon to skip the usual Covid-19 quarantine after arriving in the city. Nicole Kidman was among those granted the waiver.

The American-Australian celebrity drew media attention in Hong Kong after she was spotted last week at fashion store COS on Queen's Road Central just two days after flying to the city from Sydney in a private jet. International travelers are required to observe a quarantine that may last between 7 and 21 days as a precaution against Covid-19, so people started asking questions about Kidman's movements.

The city government confirmed on Thursday that the actress was given a special waiver because she was participating in a filming project “conducive to maintaining the necessary operation and development of Hong Kong's economy,” as the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said in a statement.

On Friday, Secretary Edward Yau, who heads the department, revealed that four other members of the filming crew were offered the same preferential treatment. He said the waivers were conditional on things like taking regular Covid-19 tests and informing the authorities of their work schedules, which “are meant to contain the risks in a manageable manner” and “strike a balance between facilitation and epidemic control,” the South China Morning Post reported.

Hong Kong grants tens of thousands of similar waivers each month, mostly to transport employees whose work is required for the smooth operation of the city. Exceptions can be granted to foreign diplomats, senior government officials or business executives, according to Hong Kong public health rules, but film workers are not among the eligible categories.

Some Hong Kong officials voiced their frustration about Kidman's privileged welcome in Hong Kong.

“Will all foreign film stars be exempted from quarantine in the future if they come to Hong Kong for filming? If not, how do you explain that Nicole Kidman is superior to the others?” lawmaker Michael Tien asked during a Friday session of the city Legislative Council.

Fellow council member Priscilla Leung remarked that her official status would not allow her skip the quarantine and asked how “the work of a lawmaker compares with that of a film star.”

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It's hardly unprecedented for the rich and powerful to bend the rules that make life uncomfortable for the common folk. Kidman and her husband Keith Urban, for example, were allowed last year to quarantine at their mansion in New South Wales, instead of going to a designated hotel as most of those arriving in Australia were required.

An extra layer of irony is added by the nature of the production that Kidman is involved in. The TV series Expats, which is made for Amazon Prime Video, follows the lives of affluent expatriate women living as outsiders in Hong Kong. Kidman doesn't star in it, but rather works as co-executive producer of the show.

The series was separately attacked for an entirely different reason by people, who perceive it as “soft propaganda” for Beijing in the wake of its crackdown on anti-government protests and rioting that gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for months in 2019 and 2020.

The central government said the protests were orchestrated by foreign powers. In response it adopted a controversial national security law, which introduced serious punishment for things like sedition and separatism, cementing its control over Hong Kong.

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