Press here to Skip to the main content
Font Size
Default Font Size Larger Font Size Largest Font Size RSS Subscription Advanced Search Sitemap Mobile/Accessible Version 繁體 简体

A final act for the environment

October 09, 2016

Memorial sailing

Memorial sailing:  The Food & Environmental Hygiene Department boat service allows mourners like Paula Ng to pay their respects at sea.

Loving farewell

Loving farewell:  Cheng Lai-chun says her mother wanted her cremated remains to be scattered at sea.

Peaceful resting

Peaceful resting:  The environment at gardens of remembrance is peaceful and quiet, making them an ideal final resting place.

Enhanced awareness

Enhanced awareness:  Food & Environmental Hygiene Department Superintendent Leung Yat-king says resources have been boosted to promote green burials.

Green burial is gaining popularity in Hong Kong. There were over 4,000 cases of scattering remains at sea and in the city’s gardens of remembrance in 2015, accounting for 8.7% of total deaths, a significant increase on the 4.6% figure for 2010.


This reflects a growing acceptance of the concept of returning to nature through green burials. From 2014, the Food & Environmental Hygiene Department has arranged free memorial sailings during the Ching Ming and Chung Yeung grave-sweeping festivals. The sailings enable the public to pay respects to their loved ones whose ashes were scattered at sea.


Cheng Lai-chun was a passenger for the memorial sailings during this year’s Chung Yeung Festival to mourn her mother, an Indonesian-born Chinese resident living in Hong Kong who died in May.


“I think of my mother whenever I see the sea,” she said. Ms Cheng said it was her mother’s idea to have her cremated remains scattered at sea.


“She thought that grave sweeping might be a burden for us if we just went with tradition. She believed that scattering her remains at sea could help her to travel back to her home town in Indonesia.”


Memorial at sea

The Food & Environmental Hygiene Department has been providing services for scattering human ashes at sea since 2012, by deploying a vessel which can accommodate more than 300 passengers.


Since 2014 there have been at least two memorial sailings a year to waters east of Tung Lung Chau or south of the West Lamma Channel, which are designated areas for scattering human ashes.


A funeral director on board the vessel oversees memorial ceremonies. There are also facilities to accommodate different religious rituals.


Paula Ng was also on the vessel to Tung Lung Chau. This is her first time sailing out to mourn her late husband since he died in April.


“My husband loved to travel around. He liked taking photos and was a nature lover. So we wanted to follow his preferences.”


Ms Ng said her husband had no doubts about being buried at sea after he saw a TV advertisement introducing green burial.


She decided to mourn her husband by putting up a photo of him at home. This helps her feel as though she can talk to him every day.


“I have a photo of him at home. I talk to him after I wake up every morning and say goodbye to him when I leave. Sometimes when I go to the seaside, I will talk to him like he is around me.”


She is grateful for the free memorial sailings which give her the chance to feel close to her husband. She said it is expensive to rent a boat to go to Tung Lung Chau.


Dignified send-off

While she believes a green burial is a sombre and dignified send-off for a loved one, Ms Ng said she would prefer one of the gardens of remembrance as her final resting place instead of the sea, as she loves the peaceful environment.


There are eight gardens of remembrance in Hong Kong. The Government has been promoting green burials by arranging visits to the sites.


“Some of my friends understood it may take a long time waiting for the allocation of public niches and it might also be expensive to rent private niches. If the environment of the gardens of remembrance is good it will be more acceptable to scatter remains here,” said one of the visitors.


Food & Environmental Hygiene Department Superintendent Leung Yat-king said the department has increased resources to enhance promotion of green burials, including the launch of exhibitions, seminars, promotional videos, distribution of publicity materials and collaboration with non-governmental organisations.


To further boost green burial awareness, the promotions not only target the elderly, but also the middle-aged and teenagers. The department will also work closely with cremation service providers, religious groups and hospitals to promote green burials.

Elderly Health Care voucher Scheme