Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A Day of Sadness

Before I continue my two-cent worth on Cantonese opera, let me send my condolences to the victims and their families of the boat crash near Lamma Island last night. May those who lost their lives rest in peace. May God have mercy on the injured and their families.

According to latest news reports, 36 were dead, nine in serious or critical condition. A total of 124 passengers were on board a vessel, leased by Hong Kong Electric, sailing towards Victoria Harbour for the firework display when it bumped into a ferry running between Yung Shue Wan and Central. Within minutes the vessel sank, thrusting most passengers down the dark waters off the northwest of Lamma Island.

This accident is by all means unfortunate and heart-breaking. This is because the passengers were all Hong Kong Electric staff and their families, joining a company outing to visit the Lamma power plant during the day and enjoy the festive firework display in the evening. It was meant to be a holiday of fun, union and happiness. But it turned out to be a day of sadness and irrecoverable loss, when human lives perished and families broken.

Salute to the well-trained, highly professional and responsive emergency forces that have prevented more lives from being lost. I’m always proud and thankful to God to be able to live in one of the safest cities in the world. Safety is not just about low crime rates and good social order, but also the readiness of rapid response when anyone is in danger.

But the prominent presence of Li Gang, deputy director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, at the press stand-up at Queen Mary Hospital last night was somewhat intriguing. While we welcome condolences to the victims and assistance to the rescue operations, it is almost incomprehensible to have someone from Beijing taking over the press briefing, or at least appeared to be so, in such a local accident. In Hong Kong where the rule of law and respect for procedural order still prevails, it is almost common sense for public administrators to adhere to political protocols and procedures in however urgent situations. From what is seen on live news casts, Mr Li offered to help even before Chief Executive Chun-ying Leung asked. That he took the central position behind the microphone stand was also inappropriate, if stupid. In view of the deepening scepticism and suspicion among many people of Hong Kong, politicians should be even more sensitive to trivial but symbolic details like this to avoid further trouble. Without any evidence at hand, I refuse to speculate on the reasons or intentions of such an appearance. Yet again it may demonstrate how insensitive, if ignorant, both the local and Beijing governments are to the Hong Kong sentiments. And this is one of the key reasons why the post-1997 administrations have been so feeble and ineffective.


  1. Anonymous8:07 pm

    Do we need to be so sensitive? Yesterday was the National Day. Prior to or during the firework display, there were certainly some sort of celebration activities at which the CE and Mr Li were both attending. It is natural for Mr Li to accompany the CE to the hospital to give condolence to the victims. If you are attending an event with your close friend and you are informed during the event that your friend’s family members who you know quite well have caught in an accident and your friend has to leave the event to go to the hospital. It would be quite natural for you to join him to give him some sort of support. Isn’t it unfair if your friend’s wife suspects that you are trespassing into another family's business or trying to take her position as the hostess of the family?

    1. As I mentioned in the blog post, it is perfectly fine for Mr Li or anyone representing Beijing to send condolences or offer assistance upon request. The key question is the perception of taking over the press briefing. Of course this may be the result of distortion because the media only broadcast the edited segment. But the fact that Mr Li offered to help even before Mr Leung asked really hit the nerve, as you can tell from the online community. The absence of trust between Hong Kong and Beijing is by all means regrettable, but for politicians this is also a harsh and delicate reality they should face upfront any time.

  2. Anonymous5:30 am

    CY Leung is a dead duck

    Ever since he reversed his policy on “National Education” I am convinced that the Chief Executive of HK is a dead duck. That is worse than a lame duck which still, at least, is able to quack. The incidence as you described re-confirmed my belief.

    The issue may involve two folds. Mr. Li, with his high Mandarin status and mentality, did not know any better in terms of official protocols and diplomacy in HK that he thinks is his turf to govern. It is no surprise that he did what he did.

    The more revealing part was what CY Leung responded. Was he sensitive enough to know that he is the CE of HK and now another person, regardless that person’s position, upstages him in front of the media? If CY Leung has the least political sensibility and skills, he would have quickly recovered the stage without offending Mr. Li, telling the world that he was in charge. I did not watch the Chinese TV reporting in Canada and cannot tell the details. If he did not do so, that means he failed badly. In his mind he possibly still thinks in the colonial days that he is the most obedient servant to the Crown, now the Communist Party Politburo. The party boss speaks and the boss can do no wrong.

    A dead duck is good and perhaps desirable to Beijing. He can do nothing worse than already is and cannot be deader. A CE of irrelevance!

    Ontario, Canada

    1. Confession - I didn't watch the full length of live broadcast but just part of it. I'm not sure if Mr Leung has just sidestepped and given Mr Li a few minutes to express his condolences. From what I saw Mr Li seemed taking over the press briefing and offering to help when Mr Leung didn't even utter a word to ask. As you said, it is understandable for Mr Li to do so, given his mentality and insensitivity. But to most of us here in Hong Kong, this simply has gone a bit too far.
      You are right in saying that Mr Leung is a dead duck. He doesn't even bother to quack, as far as we can see. All I can recall is all those carefully crafted rhetoric that only serves to irritate and put my limit of tolerance to test. In fact, over the past three months since he swore in, few of us really take him seriously. This is worrisome, but there seems little else we can do to express how grumpy we are.

  3. Anonymous6:38 am

    I have the following issues in mind:

    1. How to avoid future incidents? Should all ferry be catamaran (unsinkable because of dual hauls)? Should passengers who cannot swim wear life jacket once onboard? Should light jacket vest carrying self activated pressur cylinder and lights be provided underneath each seat just like what we expect to see on aircrafts?

    2. How to centralise rescue forces? I was watching the fire works right in front of the Tamar Building which is now occupied by the PLA. I could see some 40 armies on the roof watching the fire works and at the same time there were some 40 policemen on the street keeping citizens away from Tamar Buidling. I just wonder if this building can be converted to a new Hospital Centre equipped with helicopter landing and facilities to handle disasters such as major outbreak of fire, H5N1, ...and etc. It is just a waste to accommodate a team of soldiers just in case there is a revolution against Beijing.

    3. HK should retain its core values and culture on professional works by the professionals. It is very disappointing to see politicians making moves to demonstrate their position power to lead rescue on the spot. Their presence will only divert attentions of the officer-in-charge. I would have expected to see just one government officer to respond to press queries and the rest doing all necessary inter-departmental coordination as planned. The CEO of HK is a political figure. All he/she needs to do is to show condolence and support. His and her efforts should be spent on making plans and providing resources for improvements so that the future government team can handle matters better next time.

    My whole hearted thanks go with Kellie Chan as she had obviously applied the HK spirit to help others without saying any words. Actions and not words are our core values. Saying beautiful words and clapping hands as told are hypocritic and unfortunately at least two generations in China had suffered from this kind of education in mainland.


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