People really need reputable operators in columbarium sector

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 June, 2015, 5:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 June, 2015, 5:42pm

Given the way the government has dragged its feet in regulating private columbariums, I am not surprised to read about the "illegal" private facility in Tung Chung ("Villagers oppose alleged plans for columbarium, June 1).

When an industry is not properly regulated through legislation and enforcement, consumers are left exposed to fraudulent practices.

It is ironic that since the government proposed to regulate private columbariums through a licensing scheme, the public has become even more confused and at risk of being defrauded as unscrupulous operators of substandard facilities make misleading claims about their future status.

I foresee even more substandard columbariums coming onto the market as illicit operators engage in a mad dash for the hard-earned money of consumers before legislation eventually comes into effect.

The public is reasonably well protected against misrepresentation by property developers when it comes to buying a home for the living. However, it would seem we are even more in need of protection when it comes to purchasing a niche for the cremated remains of loved ones.

After all, most of us will inevitably be outlived by the niches we have bought for ourselves or for others.

At the very least, we need assurances that the columbarium operator will continue to maintain the facility past our lifespan.

Hong Kong has a long history of striking a good balance between public and private solutions to essential needs such as housing, transportation and medicine. We desperately need to extend this legacy to how we care for the cremated remains of those who have passed on.

To promote the development of the private columbarium industry, the government must go beyond enforcing regulations on substandard facilities and proactively promote the development of quality ones. Given a functioning marketplace, the good will always drive out the bad simply by force of healthy competition. This will ultimately benefit consumers and society.

A first step in encouraging legitimate businesses to invest in private columbariums is for the government to coordinate different agencies and departments involved in approving new columbarium projects.

These include the Planning Department, the Town Planning Board, the Transport Department and others.

We need them to help find solutions rather than put up obstacles.

Chan Shek-kwong, Sha Tin