A lesson in courage and dignity for Hongkongers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 12:00am

On Sunday, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, concerned about the safety of local journalists, warned media organisations not to send frontline reporters to Japan to cover the earthquake. Almost all have since returned to Hong Kong over the past few days.

The magnitude of the deadly earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck northern Japan last Friday sent shockwaves around the world. The extent of the damage is unimaginable and some of the worst in Japan's history. Many who witnessed the devastating disaster on television have expressed shock and sympathy, and offered assistance.

With threats of more aftershocks came the news of a volcanic eruption on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu on Sunday and then the threat of nuclear radiation at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power station, and the potential for an eventual meltdown.

Following successive blasts at three of the reactors and a fire at a fourth, hundreds of thousands of people living in the area have been evacuated due to the threat of radiation, and others living farther away have been advised to stay indoors. Higher radiation levels than usual have already been recorded in Tokyo, which is about 240 kilometres south. It has been one disaster after another, and there seems no end to it.

Facing such devastation and ongoing threats, the Japanese people have conducted themselves admirably and the way they faced disaster with such calm and courage has earned them respect from around the world. They have proudly displayed the best human qualities. To all the earthquake victims, I pray for them and wish them well.

Watching the disaster unfold from afar, some Hongkongers have, on the contrary, displayed some less-desirable human traits.

There were some utterly heartless people who made unsympathetic and cruel online comments. And some have insisted on taking a holiday in Japan despite the disaster.

People leave for Japan for different reasons. First, there are those who are eager to go there because they have friends and relatives in Japan and some are Japanese nationals living or travelling in Hong Kong.

But another group comprises people who are too selfish to change their holiday plans. By insisting on going to the disaster-stricken nation, they are not only putting themselves in danger but also creating problems for others, including both the Japanese and Hong Kong governments, and affecting the overall rescue operation. These people should be condemned for enjoying themselves while others suffer. Some even complained that the disaster has ruined their shopping holidays. How heartless! These people are the shame of Hong Kong.

Then, there are frontline reporters sent to Japan to report on the disaster. Honestly speaking, there is no need to send journalists there because they are not properly trained to handle situations like this. Their presence will endanger themselves as well as others.

To get a full picture of the disaster and the latest development, all we need to do is read the Japanese media reports. There is no need to swarm to the disaster zone. If we really want to help, we should stay away and let the Japanese people and government do their job.

Finally, I would like to point out that it's a total waste of time for our radio stations, both private and public, to just pay lip service by producing promotional clips, saying how sympathetic Hong Kong people are to the earthquake victims. Why don't they educate the public to be more like the Japanese people in the face of disaster and learn from their courage and dignity?

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk