Lamma Island ferry disaster with 39 deaths proves HK government is unaccountable!
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Good governance in liberal democratic countries requires the rule OF law, openness, transparency and accountability. In liberal democracies the periodic holding of universal and equal suffrage fair elections ensures self-correcting of their political system. With a strong rule of law, liberal democracies enjoy separation of powers which provides the checks and balances needed for self-correcting.
HK's public sector and governance has been corrupted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their minions. Is HK's rule OF law therefore in peril, or is it already dead?
The majority of HK people believe that there is one law for the CCP, HK elites and HK government employees - and another law for everyone else!
To prove HK protesters' point of view we offer two examples in which HK government employees have failed HK people; the 2012 Lamma ferry disaster (39 deaths) and recently the fire at an illegal Nepalese restaurant in Jordan (7 deaths)!
Hong Kong (HK), like China, is a Chinese feudal plutocracy, there is an unacceptably low rule OF law, and little or no openness, transparency and accountability. HK is not self-correcting!
The HK political system is a monolithic power structure model in which the 'ruler' is the CCP Emperor Xi Jinping and the minority of HK 'elites', individuals and companies, are at the top of command making all the decisions. Consider this: 'Carrie Lam walks back on election pledge to make chief executive accountable under bribery laws.'
Traditionally the majority of HK people, who are protesters, hold a minority position in an illegitimate Legislative Council (LegCo); because of the use of Functional Constituencies, HK does not have 'universal and equal suffrage' elections.
Since 24 November 2019 under 'universal and equal suffrage' elections 17/18 District Councils are majority controlled by pro-democrats: on 6 June 2020 the majority of District Councillors rejected CCP's enacted HK National Security Law. Knowing it could lose 6 September 2020 LegCo elections CCP clamped down hard on HK!
It should be noted that in 1949 the Chinese civil service, despite existing for most of China's written history, was not absorbed into the CCP. By the mid-1950s, China had developed a nomenklatura system modeled on the Soviet Union; i.e. there is no Chinese civil service independent of the ruling CCP. Fast forward to 2020 and HK's civil service is now being forced into oath taking by the CCP.
HK's rulers, CCP which is the world's worst ever totalitarian regime, want their personal HK 'dividends' - its all about corruption; i.e. no openness, transparency nor accountability! HK has its 'white elephant' projects part 1, part 2 and part 3. HK's Chief Executive Carrie Lam is busy helping her CCP bosses steal from HK people's Public Purse using an illegitimate LegCo to the tune of about HK$624billion (US$77.4billion) for an insane land reclamation project 'Lantau Tommorow' which does not have HK public support, nor makes financial sense!
To remain competitive and relevent HK needs more than ever the rule OF law, separation of powers, and strong governance using openness, transparency and accountability!
As a major shipping port HK must have a quality shipping and marine Industry with supporting HK government departments.
The 22 March 2008 collision between China Registered Bulk Carrier 'Yao Hai' and Ukraine Registered Supply Tug 'Neftegaz-67' in waters off NW Lantau which left 18 people dead in part was caused by HK's Marine Department. The primary blame was laid on the Chinese vessel - but some blame needs to be laid on HK's Marine Department who have still not made clear to all shipping HK's 'rules of the road' for vessels inside the deep water channel in those waters.
Reported by SCMP 30 November 2018 Hong Kong Marine Department Assistant Director So Ping-chi, who was found to have ignored life jacket law in 1 October 2012 Lamma ferry disaster that killed 39 people (including 8 children), and injuring 101. So had his prison term for 'misconduct in public office' reduced from 16 months to 4½ months and walked free after sentence cut by the Appeals Court!
Wikipedia wrote that on 14 February 2015, Sea Smooth′s captain Lai Sai-ming was convicted of 39 counts of manslaughter over the deaths, while Lamma IV′s captain Chow Chi-wai was acquitted of the same charges by the High Court. Both men were found guilty of 'endangering the safety of others at sea'. On 16 February, Lai and Chow were sentenced to eight years' and nine months' imprisonment respectively.
A judge-led Commission of Inquiry blasted the public sector for their policies and practices! Having extracted accountability from the private sector in Court, where is the equivalent accountability from the public sector in Court?
How does private sector Captain Lai Sai-ming 8 year sentence equate to HK government employee So Ping-chi's sentence of 4½ months as 'equality before the law' in the eyes of HK's public and the rule OF law?
4 November 2020, the Department of Justice (DoJ) decided NOT to prosecute any more cases relating to the 2012 Lamma ferry disaster! Where is the relief for stricken families? Where is the accountability? (Please see RTHK report below).
Hong Kong protester jailed for 21 months for throwing eggs at police HQ! How does this equate to HK government employee So Ping-chi's sentence of 4½ months as 'equality before the law' in the eyes of HK's public and the rule OF law?
CCP and HK government do NOT want to be held accountable! Therefore, what they are doing is stealing time and money from HK people!
The most obvious case of proven unaccountability of the HK government since the 1997 handover to China is the tragic loss of life of 39 men, women and children (8) and 101 injured in an accident between two ferries off Lamma Island on 1 October 2012.
This was HK's worst marine accident since 1971 when during a typhoon 81 people lost their lives aboard a HK - Macao ferry.
HK's rule of law includes human rights:
The UN's supreme human is the 'right to life' ICCPR article 6 'Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life' i.e. the arbitrary action of the Marine Department caused the loss of life and injuries
Everyone is equal before the law under ICCPR article 14.1 'All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals...' i.e. that private sector and public sector individuals charged with crimes must be treated equally by the Courts
Your author recalls reading in the Press at the time that blame for the accident was apportioned equally 50% to the public sector and 50% to the private sector. (Still no link found!).
2012 Lamma ferry disaster summary
On 1 October 2012, at approximately 20:23 HK time, the passenger ferries 'Sea Smooth' and 'Lamma IV' collided off Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island, Hong Kong. This occurred on the National Day of the People's Republic of China. With 39 killed and 92 injured, the incident was the deadliest maritime disaster in Hong Kong since 1971.
The accident involved a Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry-operated passenger ferry, 'Sea Smooth' (海泰號), and a Hongkong Electric Company-owned vessel, 'Lamma IV' (南丫四號), with 121 passengers and 3 crew members on board. The passenger ferry was travelling from Central to Yung Shue Wan, while the Hongkong Electric Company vessel was travelling from Lamma Island to Central. Passengers on Lamma IV were on a one-day tour organised by the company, and were headed to Central for the fireworks display commemorating the National Day of the PRC following a tour of the Lamma Power Station. Participants of the tour mostly joined as families, and as a result there were a number of children among the passengers.
At approximately 20:20, Sea Smooth crashed into Lamma IV on the port side. The bow of Sea Smooth hit the stern of Lamma IV, rupturing the ship's two watertight compartments and thereby allowing them to quickly fill with water. The ship soon capsized with the rear sinking into the sea. The vessel reportedly went down so quickly that more than 100 passengers were thrown into the water unprotected despite the abundance of life-vests on board. The ferry left the scene after the accident and continued on to Yung Shue Wan pier. The front of Sea Smooth was damaged and its captain was also sent to the local clinic after the accident, along with several passengers.
Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Collision of Vessels near Lamma Island on 1 October 2012.
Video simulation of the collision between the two ferries.
HK's highly overpaid (at least x3 of private sector!) 'mandarin class' (i.e. bureaucratics) have lost all credibility with HK people! Under CCP the HK government is now corrupt, inefficient and ineffective! There is no equality before the law! There is no rule OF law!
Lamma ferry inquiry report blasts Marine Department
SCMP 30 April 2013.
The government department responsible for shipping and vessel safety needs an urgent overhaul, investigation of collision concludes.
“Serious systemic failings” in the Marine Department contributed to the Lamma ferry tragedy, the Commission of Inquiry into the disaster has found.
In its report, released yesterday, the commission pointed to a “litany of errors” at every stage of the design, construction and inspection of the Lamma IV, which contributed to the rapid sinking of the boat.
“What is required is systemic change, in particular a change in attitude to responsibility and transparency,” the commission said of the department. “In [some] areas, what is required is action, and action now.”
What is required is systemic change, in particular a change in attitude to responsibility and transparency.
The commission, led by Mr Justice Michael Lunn, said it was “astonished and deeply dismayed” to learn that the department had not fully enforced a 2008 regulation stipulating that vessels should carry a number of lifejackets matching their capacity, as well as children’s lifejackets equal to five per cent of capacity.
The key factors so many lives were lost were loosely attached seats on the upper deck of the Lamma IV that came off, throwing passengers towards the stern; passengers having trouble getting to and donning lifejackets; and no children’s lifejackets.
The department has promised an internal investigation into whether any officer bears part of the responsibility for Hong Kong’s deadliest sea tragedy in 40 years.
A total of 39 passengers died when the Hongkong Electric vessel Lamma IV, taking workers and their families to see the National Day fireworks in Victoria Harbour, collided with the ferry Sea Smooth off Lamma Island.
Sections of the report dealing with the responsibilities of the two coxswains involved in the October 1 crash – both of whom have been charged with manslaughter – was redacted to avoid influencing their trials.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said he would lead a steering committee to oversee the reform of the department. He said he would appoint a directorate-grade officer as deputy director of the department to lead the reforms.
Director of Marine Francis Liu Hon-por said the department had appointed foreign experts to review its inspection procedures and compare safety regulations with those in Singapore, Sydney and Southampton.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pledged that the government would handle any case of maladministration or human error impartially, and said disciplinary hearings could start.
Liu did not answer if he would apologise or resign. Cheung said he “felt sorry”.
Ryan Tsui Chi-shing, younger brother of Tsui Chi-wai and uncle of Tsui Hoi-ying, 10, who both died in the crash, said he appreciated that the inquiry had shed light on a lot of facts. But he had doubts whether the reforms would succeed: “The director lacks the courage to even apologise, so how can I trust him to have a conscience in future?”
DOJ rules out further action over Lamma tragedy
RTHK 4 November 2020
Families of the victims of the 2012 Lamma ferry tragedy that claimed 39 lives may file a private prosecution against those responsible as the Department of Justice (DOJ) closed the door on further legal action.
The government has revealed that the DOJ decided that prosecution would not be launched against any individual or company after the police submitted results of their investigation in 2015 and 2018.
The families, backed by Democratic Party lawmaker James To, were informed of the DOJ's decision in a meeting with the police on Tuesday.
To, who is also a lawyer, said they were told that there was insufficient evidence to launch further prosecution even though authorities had heard new testimony from a Spanish engineer.
He also said on Wednesday that families of the victims are "very disappointed" and urged the police to offer a reward to appeal for more information.
The families are arranging a meeting with the Department of Justice to find out why it ruled out further prosecution.
"As a result of the meeting, maybe our expert can understand more and to help the families to decide whether, against all odds, we should launch a private prosecution," To said.
"According to Mr Justice Lunn's committee of inquiry report, it's very obvious that the construction of the Lamma IV vessel and the inspection of the Marine Department have a lot of unforgivable failures, and we feel that justice demands that somebody must be responsible for it criminally."
The captains of the two vessels and two Marine Department officials have been given jail sentences in connection with the deadliest maritime disaster in Hong Kong in decades.
Seventeen Marine Department officers found guilty of misconduct were disciplined by the Civil Service Bureau over the tragedy on October 1, 2012.
Marine Dept. to push for legal changes following Lamma ferry tragedy
HKFP 22 July 2020 by Chantel Yuen
The Marine Department will push for the Legislative Council to enact improved safety laws as soon as possible, Director of Marine Maisie Cheng Mei-sze has said. It will propose amendments requiring every passenger to have access to a suitable life vest in times of emergency.
The 2012 Lamma ferry tragedy saw 39 people killed when a Lamma passenger ferry and a Hongkong Electric Company-owned vessel collided off Yung Shue Wan, in one of Hong Kong’s deadliest ferry accidents. Later investigation showed that there was an insufficient number of life jackets on board.
In February a former Marine Department ship inspector, Wong Kam-ching, was convicted of perjury when it was found that he hid the fact that there were no children’s life vests during his inspection of the vessel Lamma IV from an inquiry commission. An assistant director of marine, So Chi-ping was also found guilty this June for failing to ensure that there were enough life jackets on the vessel.
Eight children were among those who died in the Lamma tragedy.
“We will begin working on enacting laws, because the law now says that child life vests only need to account for 5% of the vessel’s passenger load. But our suggestion in the future is to change the law so that everyone on the vessel will have a suitable life jacket, which includes children. So we need to consult the industry,” said Cheng.
She hoped that the proposed changes could be enacted as soon as possible. Other revisions include digitising records, reviewing the grade structure of the Marine department and inspecting the watertight doors of vessels. The department was slammed by the Ombudsman last month for its ‘lax’ approach to rectifying problems after maritime incidents.
Ombudsman slams Marine Dept. for its ‘lax’ approach to rectifying problems after maritime incidents
HKFP 15 June 2016 by Kris Cheng
The Office of the Ombudsman has said that the Marine Department’s “lax” approach to rectifying problems after maritime incidents could put safety at risk.
Its direct investigation report released on Tuesday came after the department’s former assistant director So Ping-chi was convicted of misconduct in public office over the 2012 fatal ferry collision near Lamma Island, which claimed 39 lives.
The watchdog criticised the department for its approach in the lead up to June 2013, saying that it relied on the voluntary actions of officials and vessel owners to rectify inadequacies mentioned in incident reports.
Between January 2005 and May 2013, the department concluded 114 marine incident investigations and made 308 recommendations in total.
“There was no established mechanism for monitoring whether those related agencies and parties were going to implement the recommendations or not,” the report said.
The report added that, in some ten cases, the Marine Department had failed to take any follow-up actions for up to eight years after completing an investigation, or had omitted some recommendations.
With regards to the Lamma Island collision, it was found that one of the vessels involved was not fitted with a watertight door, resulting in water ingress and the rapid sinking of the vessel after the collision. Local media later reported that the Marine Department should have examined the watertight bulkheads for all vessels of the same type after an incident in 2000, but had failed to.
A new follow-up mechanism requires that – aside from informing the related agencies and parties of its incident report recommendations – the department should also enter those recommendations into its computer system. Then, progress can be monitored until all the recommendations are implemented.
But the report noted that the new mechanism was still inadequate, as it was not applicable to vessels not registered in Hong Kong.
The Ombudsman also criticised the Marine Department for failing to follow up rigorously on every case. It said that follow-up actions were only wrapped up in 13 out of 77 cases under the new mechanism.
The report suggested that the new mechanism should be applied to old cases as well. But the department refused, citing manpower and resources constraints.
“This is the way to learn lessons from past experiences. We find it quite unacceptable that MD has decided not to,” the report said.
Officials Charged Over Lamma IV Collision
Marine Executive 18 March 2015 by Wendy Laursen
Two officials have appeared in Hong Kong’s Eastern Court this week charged with misconduct in relation to the 2012 Lamma IV disaster that claimed 39 lives.
Marine Department assistant director, So Ping-chi, 58, is being charged with misconduct and retired senior inspector Wong Kam-ching, 60, is being charged with perjury.
So is accused of instructing his subordinates not to enforce the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Regulations in relation to lifejackets, reports the South China Morning Post. Wong allegedly made a false statement at the Commission of Inquiry by claiming that Lamma IV contained children’s lifejackets when inspected on May 8, 2012.
The collision took place on October 1, 2012. Hong Kong Electric’s Lamma IV collided with Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry’s Sea Smooth. 39 passengers on board the Lamma IV, including eight children, died.
The men have been granted bail, and their cases adjourned until April 15.
Lai Sai-ming, master of the ferry Sea Smooth, has already been sentenced to eight years’ prison. Lai, 56, was found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of endangering the lives of others at sea.
Chow Chi-wai, 58 and master of the ferry Lamma IV was acquitted of manslaughter charges but sentenced to nine months prison for endangering the lives of others at sea.
Hong Kong was in the midst of celebrating China’s National Day at the time of the accident, resulting in the area’s already bustling waters being unusually overcrowded.
Lamma IV was carrying company employees and their families to watch a fireworks display when it was struck by the passenger ferry traveling from Hong Kong Island to Lamma Island.
The collision resulted in more than 100 people being flung into the water. Lamma IV began to sink almost immediately, and low visibility and obstacles on board made work difficult for rescuers.
Both Chow and Lai have reportedly been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The accident was the deadliest maritime accident in Hong Kong since 1971, when a Hong Kong-Macau ferry sank during a typhoon, leaving 88 people dead.
Further references on Lamma ferry disaster:
RTHK 21 November 2020 'No inquest into Lamma ferry disaster, says James To'
HKFP 2 October 2017 'In Pictures: Mourners remember victims of Lamma ferry tragedy, five years on'
Fire tragedy shows accountability is meaningless for the Hong Kong gov’t
HKFP 21 November 2020 by Stephen Vines
"This sordid combination of arrogance and rank irresponsibility is characteristic of the way the Lam administration conducts itself," writes Steve Vines
As news emerged of the deadly fire at an unlicensed Nepalese restaurant in Jordan, Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui took to Facebook to tell the world how much he had enjoyed a bowl of sugar water.
Tsui is allegedly responsible for matters such as this. But in the non-elected world of Hong Kong government where responsibility has no meaning, the valiant Secretary could not even bring himself to apologise for his callousness. Instead, he chose to comment that “multitasking is not conflicting”. Yes, he actually wrote that.
This sordid combination of arrogance and rank irresponsibility is characteristic of the way the Lam administration conducts itself. On the one hand they know full well they are not accountable to the people of Hong Kong, and on the other hand they know that their positions are secure as long as they regularly abase themselves before the bosses in Beijing.
Sitting at the top of this mouldering pile of nonentities and time-servers is the Chief Executive in Name Only (CENO), Carrie Lam, who rushed to the scene of the fire in time to be photographed showing what passes for concern. With equal speed she bustled away after leaving instructions that this was a matter that needed following up, a statement of such bland meaningless as not even to merit much coverage by the usually tame chorus line of the so-called mainstream media.
In an elected system even the most incompetent practitioners of the admittedly complex business of government understand that in the face of a tragedy they must be careful about what they say and do. The more competent then set about trying to solve the problem that led to the disaster.
Seven people lost their lives in this fire and another seven have life-threatening injuries following an inferno that almost certainly would not have produced fatalities in a well regulated building with adequate anti-fire precautions and viable escape routes.
This rundown structure in Jordan had none of these things. Moreover, it is entirely typical of the down-at-heel tenement structures found throughout Hong Kong. Indeed, what happened in Jordan is very reminiscent of the blaze that cost nine lives in Mong Kok back in 2011.
The tattered thread that links these two tragedies is appalling building conditions in poor areas. The Mong Kok tragedy provoked much wringing of hands and a bustle of clipboard- wielding bureaucrats clumping around issuing violation tickets. These almost certainly resulted in fines but did nothing to address the fundamental problem.
In the wake of this disaster they were at it again: focusing on the problems of unlicensed restaurants and flaying around trying to find people to prosecute.
The real problem is not one of micro detail but the dire standard of buildings in Hong Kong’s poorest areas. Instead of looking for ways to improve the building stock at the lowest end of the spectrum, the government is far more interested in environmentally destructive schemes for swanky new edifices on reclaimed land, and finding other ways to feed the rapacious appetites of property developers.
Building renovation in places like Jordan does not interest the pumped-up officials who much prefer to focus on their legacy projects instead of tackling the hard-to-tackle problem of improving the housing stock and providing resources to ensure safety.
This is where the link between unelected government and tragedy coincides, because elected officials simply could not get away with this level of indifference. Even the worst among them get called to account at election time. But in Hong Kong accountability is meaningless and the muppets who populate the flaying Lam administration can be guaranteed to blunder from one disaster to the next, especially where the victims are the so-called “undeserving poor”.
Meanwhile, I hope Mr Tsui is enjoying his tohng seui, (sugar water) or whatever other fragrant dessert is coming his way.
References on fire tragedy:
RTHK 28 November 2020 'Buildings Department denies 'constraining' media'