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.