Death and Uncertainty

More Questions in Hong Kong

Life uncertain, by Robby Garbett, with Creative Commons licenceThe old line tells us that there’s nothing as certain as death and taxes. But in Hong Kong that never holds true – tax arrangements change from year to year, and death doesn’t always bring closure. While preparing a post on perceptions of poverty today I realised that something important has been missing in my coverage of the still unexplained disappearance and death of Vicenta Flores. I mentioned in an earlier post that two other Filipino women died in Hong Kong on the day Vicenta disappeared, both apparent suicides. But for one of those women that presumption is no longer true, and another Filipina died in mysterious circumstances just over a week later.

Four unexplained deaths in 10 days and so few answers.

The Sun, one of the Filipino community newspapers here in Hong Kong, reported in its print edition earlier this week that the Coroner had asked police to further investigate the case of Carolina Dacquil, who fell to her death from a ninth floor window on 7 April. She had previously been thought to have committed suicide due to financial difficulties. Regardless of how many Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong are presumed to have financial difficulties, hasty conclusions in that regard should hardly be the hallmark of justice. So the Coroner’s request is encouraging, even though it casts significant doubt over the suitability of police procedure.

The other death, this time an apparent suicide by hanging, is more troublesome, but that’s no fault of the police. The Sun reported that a 26 year old woman, identified only as L.C.R., was found dead on April 17, leaving behind a daughter and a German fiancé. The fiancé organised repatriation of the body to the Philippines, where another ex-pat collected it. According to the Philippine Consulate, no family member has come forward asking for help in the case, which is highly unusual. The police, we are told, are continuing their investigations.

Hurt to Understand, by Vardhana, with Creative Commons licenceHow does death elude the authorities so easily, and why is the mainstream media not covering these cases? The first part of that question is difficult to answer because police investigations are necessarily secretive. But if what those of us who have been pursuing justice for Vicenta Flores have heard continues to hold true, the police here lack sufficient training in understanding other cultures.

Ethnic minority liaison officers would hardly go astray.

The paucity of major media coverage is a little more straightforward. The South China Morning Post has been following developments in the Vicenta Flores investigation, including the community reaction, but the other English language daily, the Standard, has offered only a brief mention. Neither has reported the death of L.C.R. or the change of status in the Dacquil case. The Chinese language dailies are carrying nothing.

In a sense that’s understandable – Hong Kong is an overcrowded city of almost 7 million people with many deaths every day. And some deaths are more easily understood. On Thursday, a bus crash on the Sai Kung Peninsula killed 18 passengers. That’s terrible news, and it has captured a great deal of attention. Although, perversely, the local television stations spent more time covering the Olympic torch relay the next day.

my weight, by fatty tuna, with Creative Commons licenceSo four mysterious Filipino deaths are overwhelmed by the sheer weight of explicable numbers, and most questions of death are easily brushed aside in any case. Attention deficit and scant interest in ethnic minorities – welcome to Hong Kong, Asia’s sophisticated twenty-first century World City.

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