Flags flew at half mast across Hong Kong on Thursday, marking the start of three days’ mourning for the 38 people killed in Monday’s ferry disaster.
At noon, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and senior officials led in observing three minutes of silence at the government headquarters in Admiralty. Both the national and Hong Kong flags will be at half-mast until Saturday.
Across the city, hundreds, if not thousands, of Hongkongers paid tribute to the victims of the tragedy.
Workers at government offices, the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, the Legislative Council, schools and Hongkong Electric – which owns the wrecked ferry Lamma VI – also fell silent.
In Times Square, Causeway Bay, more than 100 people, Hongkongers and tourists alike, silently watched the live broadcast on the giant TV screen above the square.
Many bowed their heads and closed their eyes, thinking about the collision between two vessels off Lamma Island.
“I was thinking of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry vessel leaving after the crash. I’m still feeling angry,” said Terence Wong, 46, after the three minutes’ silence.
Another mourner, who only gave his surname as Man, said: “I work in Times Square, so I came down to pay my respects here – just to share in Hongkongers’ feeling of heartbreak.”
After the noon service, Leung and other officials went to the Leighton Hill community hall in Wan Chai, where they signed a book of condolences organised by the government.
The government has set up condolence points - mostly in community halls - in all 18 districts for the public. People can sign condolence books over the next three days. (The list of condolence sites.)
The central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong also held a ceremony in memory of the victims.
Office director Peng Qinghua rejected media allegations that his deputy, Li Gang, was interfering in city affairs by visiting survivors at Queen Mary Hospital after the accident on Monday night.
“It is a matter of course for the mainland authorities to give a helping hand. I believe as long as the issue is humanitarian and not political, no one would think [we should] stay away and turn a blind eye to deaths,” Peng said.
On Thursday afternoon, family members of Hongkong Electric employees who died in the tragedy held a memorial service at sea. A ship carried them to the site of Monday’s collision, where they cast flowers onto the water.
That event followed a similar service, at the same site, by employees of Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry, whose vessel Sea Smooth was involved in the accident.
Also in the afternoon, a memorial service was held at St John’s Cathedral, in Central. Thirty-eight candles were lit, and the church bell was rung to commemorate the victims – seven of whom were students.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim said his bureau was arranging help for the schools and families of students who died in the disaster. Psychologists and other specialists would be sent to visit them to offer assistance.
“It is a tough time for us. I hope they can recover from sadness and pass this difficult time soon,” Ng said.
At Kau Yan School in Sai Ying Pun, which lost a Primary Five boy in the tragedy, the principal said some pupils were too young to understand what had happened. But he hoped they would learn something about the value of life through the three minutes’ silence, and prayers for the victims, held at noon.