20000 ways to die in Yau Ma Tei
There is a homicide tour in Hong Kong. The founders of the tour group Holok and Melody.
What they want to ask is:
“There are a lot of shadows behind our bustling,The question we have to ask is: Why are they dead and we are alive? What is the meaning of life? ”
In 2016, the “20,000 ways to die in Yau Ma Tei” guided tour came into being.
This route runs through the north and south of Yau Ma Tei, with a total length of 1.5 kilometers. It takes 2 hours to visit 12 murder scenes along the way.
Because the summer in Hong Kong is too hot, the guided tours are only held at night and winter.
In 2019, it was the third year of the opening of the group. So far, about 500 people have participated.
The founders of the guided tours, Holok and Melody, lived in Yau Ma Tei for years. Not long ago, I went to Hong Kong to meet them and experienced the “20,000 deaths” with them. -
The first time to do this guided tour is Halloween in 2016. The starting point at the time was quite simple, a response to Halloween and death-related activities.
With this idea in mind, it was found that there were many deaths in the streets of Yau Ma Tei, and it was easy to plan a route.
90% of the current 12 cases are between 2012 and 2016. Many of them were sensational cases at the time: Changsha Street corpse case, Pitt Street 7–11 convenience store killing, Yau Ma Tei subway abandoned baby… We walked several times in person, and finally sorted out a smoother one.
When you look at this route, you will find out, “hey, this street is where I walk past each day,” or “ oh, the murder was just behind my work place.”
The murders in Yau Ma Tei are mostly layman, some of which are confused or impulsive killings just because of some small conflicts.
There is a case in which a younger brother killed his brother. He was in the street, using a nine-inch long fish knife and penetrated his lungs. The court asked, “Why do you want to bring a fish knife to the streets? Are you prepared to kill your brother? “The younger brother replied, “No, the knife is a gift. I originally thought about giving it to my brother.”
There is a young woman who, after marrying her son with her son, is not satisfied with her husband’s life, so she went to the nightclub in Tsim Sha Tsui to become a PR. One night she went to the beach with her boyfriend to drink alcohol. When she had a dispute, she was knocked out by her boyfriend. The man thought she was dead, and pushed her to the sea, thinking about the body. In fact, she was not at the time, but subsequently drowned.
There are some murder guided tours in foreign countries. The guided tours are some very well-known murders, such as the British “Opening Jack”. Our murderers are often some grassroots people, not a famous criminal.
They don’t really know how to kill. For example,the killer still stays at the crime scene after the murder, or uses his ID card to book a hotel to place the body. A lot of them actually make people feel stupid and funny.
There was a case in Hong Kong Tsuen Wan. A housewife killed her husband, cut him into 10 pieces, then steamed it, put the pieces in many sealed bags and froze them, then dispose of them over the course of a few months, slowly. This kind of thoughtful murderer will not exist in Yau Ma Tei. They may not think much at all, they think that killing is the easiest and most direct way. So many times, murders happen on the corner and in public.
Many pre-war buildings in Yau Ma Tei are very tall and dense. Everyone is doing things and setting up stalls on the street. There are all kinds of colors in front of them. When walking on the road, probably no one will look up.
There was once an old man who committed suicide by jumping off the building with a robe collar his neck. He jumped out of the window. As a result, the body was hung on the fourth floor, which was the outer wall of the building. No one found him hanging all night against the street. Until the next morning, the residents across the street opened the window discovered it.
This pre-war building is called Tanglou. A unit in the Tang Lou can be subdivided into 9 or even 10 rooms. In the boudoir, only the next bed is placed, and sometimes the toilet and the kitchen are the same room.
These boudoirs are often a hotbed of crime. For example, there is a mother who killed her daughter in that boudoir. In fact, the wall of the boudoir is just a board, but the neighbors did not notice and alarm.
When will it be time to report to the police? It was when the daughter’s limbs plugged the toilet and he got no water, only then he called the police.
You can imagine the alienation of the relationship in the boudoir.
Yau Ma Tei has always been a mixture of different class, with grassroots ethnic minorities, refugees, and street sleepers.
When we choose a case, one criterion is to hope that the social identity of the protagonist of the murder case is as different as possible and can reflect different perspectives.
However, we did found one thing in common. The victims of these murders are mostly women. It may also show that women are particularly vulnerable and unprotected in our society.
There is a case in which the deceased is only 15 years old and is a girl who likes to dress up (cosplay) . In fact, she had a good grade when she was studying, because she liked cosplay, quarreled with her family, and dropped out of school.
In order to be self-sufficient, she become a photoshoot model, she’d go to other people’s home to take pictures.
As a result, in order to earn 500 hkd, the young model was killed.
Imagine if I was only 15 years old, quarreling with my family, and leaving home, would it be the end of my life?
Vice versa, if you are a parent, when you know that your daughter will be out at night, it will lead her to the end of life, will you chastise her?
There is also a subway baby abandonment case. Inside the subway station, a cleaner found a purple bag, she got curious and open it, inside was a baby with a placenta umbilical cord intact,dead.
Finally found that the baby’s mother is a foreign domestic helper. She was pregnant and was afraid of being dismissed by her employer, so she discarded the baby in the MTR. She was quickly arrested and sentenced.
Why isn’t her employer guilty? There is no reason for a servant who is so close to you and lives with you and you can’t tell she’s pregnant. Every day, she wipes the table next to you, unless you really never lay a glance.
About a year after the case occurred, another similar case happened. Another foreign domestic helper. The employer fired her because she was pregnant. She insisted on dissatisfaction, she went to appeal, and finally won the case in two years.
I always think, if the latter case happens earlier, the subway abandonment case may not appear. Maybe this pregnant worker who discards his baby does not need to suffer.
Most of the murders we selected were in newspapers and on television. In order to put together a full picture, I didn’t just read a newspaper, but I read a lot.
Every report is a narrative, and multiple narratives are put together, there is always a place that does not match. We combined the different pieces together a little bit like Sherlock Holmes.
There is a case in which two elderly people die at home, and one of them is starved to death. Why is Hong Kong so rich, but there still someone starving to death?
It turns out that one of the elderly people was suffering from dementia. Her husband was the care taker, but her husband accidentally fell to death in the living room.
The old lady could not leave the bed. She does not know that her husband has already died outside, and she slowly starved to death in bed.
What is a person with dementia starving to death? She has no idea of time. She doesn’t recognize people. She doesn’t know what she needs. She doesn’t remember when she eats.
When you spread out and think about what happened on the spot, you will feel terrible. Under a mechanism of no community care, in fact, many elderly people living alone are at stake.
This guided tour group started to raise money for the NGO organization SCMHK, each 50 Hong Kong dollars. Later, it became more and more popular, and it became 150hkd, which is equivalent to the price of one hour of a student’s tutoring part time income.
The initial target group was college students. As a result, many middle-aged people came, many married couples and even the whole family came together.
Many participants said frankly that they like to watch murders, likes mystery novels, and listens to some online radio programs.
However, we never imagined that there would be doctors taking time off to see our group. The group of people themselves is also a doctor in the emergency room. It is a good friend of ours. He arranged the doctors and colleagues of the accident and emergency department to join the tour.
“The protagonist of the case is very similar to the patients we often encounter in the accident and emergency department – drug addicts, street sleepers, refugees. We all have to rescue them in the emergency room. But their attitudes are often not very good. It’s very troublesome to deal with them. In the case of such patients, we will lose patience over time.”
“Participating in the guided tours is to remind us that we must be patient and not so indifferent. And their lives are not easy. It is very miserable. Without ID cards, they can’t work, they can’t make money, they struggle to survive. “”
The participants are usually very concerned about the details of the case. I want to know what the life of that person is. I will ask him how he died, what he did when he was alive, or what special space there is.
Sometimes, we will be able to hide some key information and only reveal it at the end.
For example, Pitt Street 7–11 convenience store murder case. After the case occurred,CCTV footages were circulated. Everyone saw that the murderer was actually a white-skinned person.
Later, the police had announced that the murderer was a white tourist holding a Canadian passport. But there is still a popular misinformation that refugees have killed people and that it was a South Asian refugee.
It may be because there are more Indian and Pakistani immigrants in Yau Ma Tei. People have a negative stereotype and feels that when there are murders they are the ones to blame. There were demonstrations at the time to get these people out of Hong Kong.
The tour participants were very surprised to understand that why such a clear misunderstanding has not been rectified, and a stigma has been stuck on this community.
In 2016, this guided tour group won a “Moving Hong Kong Award”.
But we have also been criticized for this guided tour. The main reason for the “guided tour” seems to be a very interesting thing, as if we are making fun of the dead, because death should be taken seriously.
We certainly understand that there are many parts of it that are intriguing and sensational. But in fact,we try ourselves to be neutral, just to let the participants know the truth of the matter and think more comprehensively.
In fact, we want to attract people who are already biased against refugees or foreign domestic helpers. After they came, they are confronted by these stories and learned how these social labels follow a person’s life and led to their death. Even after they died, they are still misunderstood. One might think more.
We don’t ask them to hear we preach and suddenly change 180 degrees, but at least they will learn one or two things by themselves.
When I was in college, I studied philosophy. Heidegger proposed that. existence is being towards death. Only when we are confronted by this limite, will we really reflect on “What is the meaning of existence?”
After taking this guided tour, I seem to have slowly developed a way of getting along with death. So I wrote my will at the age of 28, and later, with the help of my friends, I also held a symbolic funeral.
At the funeral, my friend prepared a white flower for my portrait and made a eulogy on the stage. I saw the whole process at the side, feeling that I was bidding farewell to my past, as if I had really died, and then I was born again. I think that experience will never be forgotten.
In Yau Ma Tei, I used to live upstairs of a brothouse. Outsiders may feel confused, but I think it is safe. There are a lot of forgotten spaces here. Many people may not want to see them. They work and live here. They have not tried to walk into the alley once in ten years.
This kind of space is the only place where many people come to end their lives.
That makes me feel very curious: Why do we walk through the same street, I will be so sure that I can safely leave the alley, and their souls will stay there forever?
One explanation is that most of the dead people are grassroots, and they are not protected by our social system.
If the society has a safety net, then they are people who fall outside the safety net, or those who are not included by the safety net.
There are actually many shadows behind our bustling.
If the city of Hong Kong is a big machine that continually engulfs the soul, then they may be some residue.
Even after they died, they only occupied the size of one small tofu block at the corner of the newspaper.
In the past two years, these cases have become more and more vivid as they have been spoken more and more.
The protagonist of the 12 cases, they are dead, they have no voice of their own,they can not speak forvthemselves, but we are still alive, working, sleeping, resting, can continue to tell their stories, but also continue their life.