The government has cancelled the Lunar New Year fireworks display this year as a mark of respect for the victims of the deadly bus crash that took place in Tai Po over the weekend.
As the city mourns the 19 dead in Saturday’s accident, which was Hong Kong’s worst such incident in 15 years, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Monday that the Chinese New Year fireworks show, which had been scheduled for Feb. 17, has been abandoned.
The announcement came after several political parties urged the government to cancel the event, arguing that it will be very improper to go ahead with it in light of the bus tragedy, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Lam told the media that the government has heeded the call from different quarters, including Legislative Council members across the political spectrum, and decided to cancel the fireworks show, which was to have taken place on the second day of the Lunar New Year.
“I have taken into account their suggestions, their views and the general sentiments in the community and came to the decision that we would cancel this year’s Chinese New Year fireworks”, Lam said.
The sponsoring organization, Chevalier International Holdings (0025.HK), has been notified, she said, adding that the firm has agreed with the move and extended its support to the decision.
The fireworks display had a budget of around HK$8.8 million. According to Chevalier, the money saved from not holding the event will be donated to help the victims of the bus crash.
This is the second time an annual fireworks display has been canceled due to a serious incident leading to casualties. Previously, a fireworks display was cancelled in 2013 on October 1, which marks China’s National Day, after 39 people died in a Lamma ferry accident on the same Day in 2012.
Claiming that senior government officials will try to refrain from attending any celebration events in the next few weeks, Lam also said that the flags at the Central Government Offices in Admiralty would fly at half-mast on Tuesday, and that members of the Executive Council and principal officials would observe one minute of silence before the council’s weekly meeting.
The crash involving a No. 872 KMB double-decker bus on Saturday evening claimed 19 lives and injured 65 people, of whom six were in critical condition as of Monday noon.
The driver, a 30-year-old surnamed Chan, who was accused by some surviving passengers of driving at abnormally high speed, has been charged with dangerous driving causing death.
He has been held without bail since, and appeared at a Fanling Magistrates’ court Tuesday morning.
Lam told reporters that Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li of the Court of Final Appeal agreed to fully support her initiative to form an independent inquiry commission to investigate the tragedy as well as examine the safety and reliability of the public transport system.
Lam met up with Ma on Monday.
The work of choosing a judge to lead the commission has begun, Lam said, adding that the inquiry commission’s final report will definitely be made public when it is ready.
Frankie Yick Chi-ming, chairman of the Legco’s transport committee, said the panel intends to hold a special meeting on the accident before the Lunar New Year holidays begin on Friday.
If a special meeting is not possible, the bus crash incident will be added to the agenda for a February 23 gathering.
In related news, asked by members of Tai Po District Council in a special meeting on Monday as to why KMB hired Chan as a part-time driver despite his bad driving record, KMB Depot General Manager Patrick Pang Shu-hung admitted that Chan had been convicted for careless driving, and had been fined and had points deducted from his record by a court in 2014.
The executive, however, insisted that KMB has strict requirements for such drivers.
Revealing that the company now has 370 part-time drivers, or around 4.3 percent of its 8,600 full-time drivers in total, Pang said they are all required to submit a Certificate of Traffic Conviction Record and Driving-offence Points Record issued by the police before they can start receiving training.
The training includes getting familiar with the routes and managing personal emotions, exercises that are spread over eight to 10 days.
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