A group of four pro-Beijing politicians have been criticised for attempting to take political advantage of a fire that claimed the life of a firefighter after they published a photo of themselves at the scene.

The four district councillors of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong posted the photo on Tuesday afternoon, showing them standing next to fire trucks at the Kowloon Bay fire scene.

Netizens slammed the councillors for hindering the firefighters’ work. Facebook users compared the image with a controversial photo of four Filipino police officers who posed next to a tour bus involved in the 2010 Manila hostage crisis which left eight Hongkongers dead.

Photo: Facebook.

One such post attracted more than 5,000 “likes” and 2,000 shares as of Wednesday afternoon.

Jack Cheung Ki-tang, one of the district councillors, even took to the page himself to counter the criticism.

“It is normal for district councillors to be at the scene to understand the situation, and to take photos to report to citizens,” he wrote. “I believe those residents who read our Facebook pages would care about the situation.”

Netizens went on to criticise Cheung, and other politicians in the photo, including Au Yeung Kwan-nok, Cheung Yiu-bun and Wilson Or Chong-shing. They said that they were not even part of the constituency that the fire occurred in.

Photo: Facebook.

Some commenters also said that, even if they were taking photos of the scene to report on the situation, it was unnecessary to include their faces.

Wilson Or Chong-shing, who is tipped to run for a Legislative Council seat in September, was the most active of the four on social media. Or posted nine Facebook posts after the fire started, including some saluting firefighters, and some photos showing him helping residents.

But he did not post the controversial photo, and did not respond to the controversy on his page or other pages.

Photo: Facebook.

Tam Siu-cheuk, the DAB party’s district councillor for the constituency where the Ngau Tau Kok blaze unfolded, defended his colleagues on social media.

“I am the district councillor for the constituency – the roads were blocked and people could not go home, buses could not enter the estates, so why shouldn’t we report on it?” he asked.

He added that the four in the photo had a responsibility to be at the scene in order to understand the incident before a meeting at the Kwun Tong district council on Wednesday to discuss it.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.