The Hong Kong government has approved a bill that will establish a licensing system to regulate the operation of unauthorized private columbaria, RTHK News reported.
Columbaria operating before January 1, 1990 will be eligible to apply for exemption from the Private Columbaria Bill, but they must freeze their operation and stop selling or leasing out new or unoccupied niches by the cut-off time.
Otherwise, all private columbaria in the city must obtain a license. A columbarium seeking a license must comply with all statutory and government requirements, including those relating to land leases or other land instruments, town planning and building safety, and submit a management plan to the Licensing Board, according to the bill.
However, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said there is no guarantee that all private columbaria will obtain the license and urged consumers to watch out when purchasing niches from them.
Consumers should make sure operators will handle the interred niches properly and refund their money or compensate them should the columbarium be prohibited from operating or cease operation, Ko was quoted as saying.
“The licensing system for private columbaria will help stabilize the supply of storage sites for ashes,” said Lai Hau-yan, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Columbarium Merchants Association.
The spokesperson of the group focusing on consumer interests also welcomed the bill, saying the licensing system will enable authorities to crack down on illegal operators and protect consumer interests to avoid the loss of interred ashes.
– Contact us at [email protected]