LCQ3: Policy on burial at Gallant Garden
Following is a question by the Hon Bernard Chan and an oral reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Miss Denise Yue, on policy on burial at Gallant Garden in the Legislative Council today (July 4):
It has been learnt that under the existing policy, civil servants and non-civil servants who died while on duty may be buried at the "Gallant Garden" at Wo Hop Shek Public Cemetery. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the usage of the various types of earth burial spaces and columbarium niches at the Gallant Garden at present, as well as the percentage of the relevant applications for burial at the Gallant Garden which were approved in the past five years;
(b) of the criteria for determining whether civil servants and non-civil servants who died while on duty may be buried at the Gallant Garden, and why in the recent two cases involving respectively a civil servant and a staff member of the Hospital Authority who died while on duty, only the former was allowed to be buried at the Gallant Garden, although both of them were commended by their respective supervisors; and
(c) given that the Government constantly encourages the public to hold environment-friendly memorial ceremonies (such as planting trees at memorial parks, etc) in place of traditional funerals, whether the Government will consider holding similar environment-friendly ceremonies at the Gallant Garden to mourn for civil servants and non-civil servants who died while on duty?
Before addressing the specific questions, I wish to provide some general information.
"Gallant Garden" was commissioned by the Government in 1996. It is an area specially set aside in the Wo Hop Shek Public Cemetery for the burial of civil servants who died on duty. The only exception was made in 2003 when the Chief Executive-in-Council approved the burial in "Gallant Garden" of five members of the Hospital Authority who died whilst fighting against SARS. A memorial plaque is erected at the entrance to "Gallant Garden" with the names of all civil servants who died on duty since 1996 - irrespective of whether their remains were buried in "Gallant Garden" - and the names of the five late members of the Hospital Authority. The list also includes the names of those civil servants who died on duty before the commissioning of "Gallant Garden" and whose remains were re-interred in urn spaces, or in niches after cremation, in "Gallant Garden" at the request of their family members.
Having regard to the scarcity of land for earth burials, since 1976 all earth burials in public cemeteries have been subject to the six-year exhumation policy. As "Gallant Garden" is part of a public cemetery, the earth burials therein are also subject to the six-year exhumation policy. At the end of the six-year period, the remains of a deceased civil servant buried at "Gallant Garden" have to be exhumed for re-interment in permanent urn spaces, or in permanent niches after cremation, provided in "Gallant Garden".
In September 2000, the Chief Executive-in-Council approved to modify the six-year exhumation policy and grant permanent earth burials to those civil servants who died on duty while performing exceptional bravery acts in their final duties, as well as to those citizens who died or were killed whilst performing exceptional acts of bravery. In practical terms, an exceptional bravery act is deemed to be one that is recognised by the posthumous award of a bravery medal by the Chief Executive.
In view of this modified policy, permanent burials at "Gallant Garden" are granted to those civil servants who died on duty and were posthumously awarded bravery medals. In January 2003, the Government commissioned "Tribute Garden", an area inside the Wo Hop Shek Public Cemetery and opposite "Gallant Garden", for the burials of citizens who died or were killed whilst performing exceptional acts of bravery. As with "Gallant Garden", permanent earth burials in "Tribute Garden" are permitted for those who were posthumously awarded bravery medals by the Chief Executive.
Turning to the specific questions raised, "Gallant Garden" has 110 earth burial spaces, 165 urn spaces, and a columbarium of 120 niches.
A civil servant who died as a result of injuries received in the actual discharge of his duties and not due to his own serious and wilful misconduct is considered to have died on duty. Upon confirmation by the concerned head of department that the deceased civil servant has died on duty and upon request from the family, the deceased civil servant is eligible to be buried in "Gallant Garden". Since its commissioning, all requests for burials, irrespective of the forms, of civil servants who died on duty in "Gallant Garden" have been approved. In the past five years, we have received and approved 18 requests relating to "Gallant Garden", made up of 17 earth burials and one burial of ashes in a niche after cremation of the remains. As at June 2007, 23 earth burial spaces, 12 urn spaces and 11 niches were taken up.
With regard to the two recent cases, one involved a fireman of the Fire Services Department who was a civil servant confirmed to have died on duty. Upon the request of the family, the late fireman has been buried in "Gallant Garden". The other case involved a nursing member of the Hospital Authority. As a non-civil servant, she did not meet the criteria for burial in "Gallant Garden".
The Government is receptive to suggestions for environment-friendly memorial ceremonies at "Gallant Garden" to mourn and commemorate civil servants who died on duty. We will consider such suggestions from the families of civil servants who died on duty.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007