Syndicate controls monopoly of preferred times for cremations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 October, 2011, 12:00am


I am writing to express my deep dissatisfaction and disappointment regarding the system of Deaths Registries set up in Hong Kong.

My wife died on September 8 and the family hoped to have the cremation on September 25 (a weekend).

The earliest cremation booking is two weeks in advance with a death certificate required from the Department of Health.

On September 10, the family arrived at the Hong Kong Island Deaths Registry office at Wu Chung House, Wan Chai, at 8.30am and we were third in line to obtain the death certificate.

At the same time there were also three other people present lining up for the cremation service.

Having obtained the death certificate, all cremation times for September 25 were still available, as shown on the television screen in the registry office.

However, upon producing the death certificate, we were astonished to learn that we were 43rd in line. The number of people in the room was unchanged.

We then realised that the few people who had come to line up had brought with them stacks of death certificates. They held piles of forms already filled out and spoke loudly on their phones to check with other 'runners' at the Kowloon registry office for cremation times. They were negotiating with them and swapping times.

By the time we were seen, all cremation slots for September 24 and 25 had been allocated.

As cremation slots only open up two weeks in advance, we had no choice but to choose an earlier date.

We were later told by a funeral services director, that most of the popular and 'auspicious' times were controlled by a syndicate, which would bring death certificates in bulk each morning.

At truly harrowing times, it is already painful to have to get on with the arrangements for the deceased - the added stress and sense of injustice only made that sorrowful time all the more acutely painful.

I find this practice unacceptable to mournful family members and suggest that only one cremation place should be offered to each applicant.

K. Mao, Sha Tin