Hong Kong’s hillsides were ablaze this week as ceremonial Ching Ming fires predictably got out of hand. More than one hundred such wild fires were reported and extinguished by the vexed authorities. Ching Ming, or clear and bright day, allows Chinese families to visit the graves of Grandma and Grandpa and burn paper gifts which subsequently appear the nether world.
To meet this ghostly demand, shops have been doing a good holiday trade selling everything from paper suits to a paper two door refrigerator (which I thought was remarkably sensible, if Chinese Hell is anything like the Christian one). I saw one family burn a very nice terrace house, complete with two servants to work there. I don’t know how the servants felt about the prospect of eternal dishwashing and cleaning, but labour laws are lax here and can be expected to be no better in Hell.
Grandpa got a paper mahjong set, presumably so he could sit around with his mates every Sunday, drinking paper beer and driving the household gods mad with the perpetual clicking of the mahjong tiles. Grandma got a very snappy Mini Cooper to cruise around the afterlife. I hope there’s more parking in Hell than in Hong Kong, or she might find herself pursued forever more by Parking Police wielding ethereal tickets.
Hong Kong Police meanwhile, had a big, full dress funeral for one of their number who was gunned down in a shoot-out. The hearse of the dead “hero” was flanked by a phalanx of police motorcycles which swept through city streets clearing the way from the Universal Funeral Parlor in Hung Hom to the burial at Gallant Garden.
The official police story of shooting went like this. Bad cop has a gun used five years ago in a police shooting. He decided that he needs another gun and the best way to get it is to hold up two armed, uniformed constables. He stages the hold up in one of Hong Kong’s busiest tourist areas. He times it to coincide with a major anti triad sweep involving hundreds of police only a few streets away. Good cop, the one who benefits from the Police funeral, is killed while his mate is seriously injured. The bad cop is also killed and is therefore conveniently unavailable to give his side of the story. Elected legislators, who are in a minority in the still undemocratic Legislative Council, found the official police story just a little difficult to believe. They want a public inquiry, which the police say really isn’t necessary.
So I went looking for a paper Commission of Inquiry to burn on Ching Ming day. Apart from anything else, the thought of incinerating paper barristers and judges appealed to me. But I couldn’t find a paper Commission on sale anywhere. I can understand that. Once these fires are lit there is no telling where it will end.