Ching Ming Festival: Epidemic prevention comes first Avoid crowds in grave sweeping
15 March 2020
The Ching Ming Festival is approaching. It is a time for grave sweeping by filial descendants paying respects to their ancestors. Attaching great importance to this festival, the Chinese families, old and young alike, gather at burial grounds, columbaria or gardens of remembrance to commemorate and venerate their departed ones.
Last year on Ching Ming Festival Day, up to 78 000 visitors flocked to the Wo Hop Shek Cemetery cum Columbarium while 64 000 visitors flooded the Diamond Hill Urn Cemetery cum Columbarium, both managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD). The Tsuen Wan Chinese Permanent Cemetery and the Junk Bay Chinese Permanent Cemetery managed by the Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries (BMCPC) had 65 000 and 62 000 visitors respectively. As shown by figures (see Table below), the graveyards are always crowded on the Festival Day.
With the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic earlier, the situation is clearly severe. In view of the continuous spread of the virus, the Government appeals to members of the public to adjust their timing for grave sweeping this year by avoiding the peak period on Ching Ming Festival Day. People are advised to stagger their visits over a wider period before and after the Festival, so as to lessen the crowd and thereby reduce the risk of virus transmission.
When paying visits to ancestral graves, one should maintain appropriate social distance with other people, pay attention to anti-epidemic measures and personal hygiene by, among other things, wearing a mask. Traditionally, grave sweepers used to share all kinds of food offerings like pork and chicken on the spot after the worshipping rituals. As the epidemic continues, meal gatherings should be avoided during grave sweeping to reduce the risk of transmission.
The FEHD and the BMCPC will extend the opening hours of their columbaria in March and April (see their announcements for details), step up crowd management and control measures at public cemeteries and columbaria as well as remind visitors to maintain personal hygiene through broadcast at these facilities. Moreover, the FEHD will strengthen the cleansing and disinfection of handrails and lift buttons inside its cemeteries and columbaria and the BMCPC will follow suit. The FEHD will also appeal to the operators of other private cemeteries and columbaria to adopt the same measures.
Members of the public may also commemorate their loved ones anytime through the FEHD’s Internet Memorial Service webpage (http://www.memorial.gov.hk) or by downloading the related mobile application.
The Government also appeals to religious organisations to continue to maintain environmental hygiene on their religious premises. Followers are also urged to avoid religious ceremonies, gatherings and activities held in crowded conditions in order to minimise social contacts and reduce the risk of virus transmission.
Every year, there are many Hong Kong people who visit the Mainland for grave sweeping and return to Hong Kong on the same day. I would like to stress that the Government has already imposed compulsory quarantine measures regarding people (including Hong Kong residents) entering Hong Kong from the Mainland. Except for exempted persons, people who have been to the Mainland in the past 14 days preceding arrival in Hong Kong (even if they enter Hong Kong from other places) are subject to compulsory quarantine at designated places for 14 days. I would like to remind those intending to visit ancestral graves in the Mainland that they are required to comply with the compulsory quarantine arrangement on their return to Hong Kong. Anyone who contravenes the compulsory quarantine requirement commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum penalty of 6 months’ imprisonment and a fine of $25,000.
To manage the crowd and facilitate grave sweeping by the public, the Transport Department (TD) will implement a series of special traffic and transport arrangements from early March to early May, including carrying out in phases road closures and traffic diversions, providing special bus services and strengthening some of the bus and green minibus services to cemeteries. Such measures are intended to facilitate members of the public to go grave sweeping at different times. The TD and public transport operators will closely monitor the passenger demand related to grave sweeping during the Ching Ming Festival period. The latter will deploy vehicles flexibly to provide sufficient public transport services and step up cleansing of vehicle compartments and station facilities. Anti-epidemic publicity will also be enhanced with a view to maintaining environmental hygiene at passenger waiting areas and inside vehicle compartments.
In view of the epidemic, members of the public are advised to reschedule the grave sweeping this year or change the way of commemorating their ancestors as far as practicable. Sincerity matters most when it comes to paying respects to our ancestors and, after all, safeguarding the family’s health is an act of honouring the promise we made to them.
No. of grave sweepers at the cemeteries and columbaria managed by the FEHD during the Ching Ming Festival in 2019
|On Ching Ming Festival Day (5 April) (No. of grave sweepers)||Two weeks before and after the Ching Ming Festival (including Ching Ming Festival Day) (No. of grave sweepers)|
|Wo Hop Shek Cemetery cum Columbarium||78 000||212 000|
|Diamond Hill Urn Cemetery cum Columbarium||64 000||219 000|
|Cape Collinson Columbarium||30 000||149 000|
|Cheung Chau Cemetery cum Columbarium||26 000||53 000|
|Kwai Chung Columbarium||16 000||38 000|
|Fu Shan Columbarium||12 000||35 000|
|Sandy Ridge Cemetery||11 000||21 000|
|Lai Chi Yuen Cemetery||380||2 800|
|Tai O Cemetery||180||1 700|
|Note: The Wong Nai Chung Road Columbarium had not yet come into operation during the Ching Ming Festival in 2019. The Lamma Columbarium and the Peng Chau Columbarium are small in scale and the number of grave sweepers is insignificant.|
No. of grave sweepers at the four cemeteries managed by the BMCPC during the Ching Ming Festival in 2019
|On Ching Ming Festival Day (5 April) (No. of grave sweepers)||During the two weekends before and after Ching Ming Festival Day (No. of grave sweepers)|
|Tsuen Wan Cemetery||65 466||125 833|
|Junk Bay Cemetery||62 828||148 762|
|Chai Wan Cemetery||54 703||140 517|
|Aberdeen Cemetery||16 104||36 982|