On Sunday 11 February one of the most serious bus accidents ever took place in Hong Kong. A double-decker bus overturned, killing 19 passengers and injuring scores of others. While social media have been rife with rumors about the accident, some even alleging the driver committed the accident on purpose. While the investigation goes on and prosecution is mulling manslaughter charges against the driver, the HK government decided to cancel the Chinese New Year fireworks.
In a previous article, I wrote about how intricate was the belief in ghosts in the Chinese tradition. In the case of the accident, the Chinese New Year festivities and the fireworks in particular, were to take place seven days after the accident. For Chinese, this is the moment where the spirits of the deceased visit their family for a final farewell.
Given the brutal nature of the accident, it is fair to assume Chinese believe those spirits are upset at the moment… So, while Westerners view the decision as “respect” for the deceased, in the view of Chinese, it has more to do with not wanting to be cursed for disregarding the suffering of the spirits.
A big economic impact
Opinions have been divided on whether the cancellation was an appropriate decision. In fact, Chinese New Year is one of the biggest touristic periods for Hong Kong. A lot of mainlanders come to Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year, and one of the main appeals of the city was the sumptuous firework display over Victoria Harbour. With this appeal gone, it might be so that less tourists come to Hong Kong, but obviously, we will only be able to tell after Chinese New Year.
Caring or superstition?
The new HK Government is facing an uphill battle not to be perceived solely as the voice of Beijing. It is for this reason, that some suspect Carrie Lam, the chief executive decided to cancel the fireworks.The argument of the Chinese tradition and ghosts probably have also their unspoken influence in this matter to some degree.
Despite the cancellation of the fireworks, accounts of indemnity for the victims of the accident mention the paltry amount of 300,000 HKD per head, which is truly symbolic. To add insult to injury this amount is paid by…. a charity!
To give really the impression of “caring”, the HK government should do far more than just symbolic gestures. Helping the families of the victims with some amount of money allowing them to really live would be far more preferable.