The victims of a fire aboard the MTR in February have said they were refused compensation by the MTR Corporation’s third party insurance company.

Nineteen people were injured earlier this year after a man set a flammable liquid alight on a packed MTR train. Cheung Kam-fai, 60, set himself on fire after allegedly hurling a firebomb in a Tsim Sha Tsui-bound train from Admiralty during rush hou. He died from his injuries three months later.

In a press release on Monday, lawmaker Roy Kwong said some injured parties approached the MTR Corporation in March and asked for compensation, but the company referred the cases to their insurance company.

The insurance company then told the victims through its loss adjuster that they would not receive compensation as “the arsonist was solely responsible for this incident,” and the MTR’s response to the incident was “swift, orderly and effective.” It added that the victims could apply for funds from the Social Welfare Department.

Kwong said he received appeals for help from five victims and their family members. He slammed the MTR Corporation for neglecting victims and passing them to the insurance company, and urged it to disclose the full report on an investigation into the incident, which the MTR has submitted to the government.

“The loss adjuster said the MTR Corporation is not at fault, but since the full report has not been publicised, no one knows if anyone needs to take responsibility,” he said.

Donations distributed 

Frederick Ma Si-hang, chair of the MTR Corporation, said in February that the company and its employees would donate at least HK$2 million to the 19 passengers injured in the arson attack during a fundraising drive held by the company and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. Along with HK$475,000 in donations from the public, it collected HK$2.475 million.

In a response to Kwong on September 15, the MTR Corporation said that it was also a victim, and had already distributed the donations to the victims based on the severity of their injuries.

MTR arson victim Mr. Cheng. Photo: Screenshot/RTHK.

One of the victims, identified only as Mr. Cheng, spoke to reporters on Monday, accompanied by Kwong. Cheng suffered burns on his hands, legs, and buttocks. A chef by profession, Cheng said that he is unable to hold a knife after the incident, and is afraid of the flame – meaning he will likely have to switch careers. He says he has not been able to work since the incident, but is the main provider for his family.

He also said that, due to the itching on his legs and bottom, he is unable to stand or sit still.

“I’ve been working in kitchens for over a decade, how am I supposed to switch careers? The way I am now… I can’t even stand properly if I were to work as a security guard, and can’t sit for long. Security guards have to write too – with my hand the way it is, I can’t even hold a pen, so what can I do?”

According to Cheng, after the fire, he saw only passengers helping injured people, and not MTR staff.

The platform after the fire.

Responding to the victims’ claims, insurance sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por said that, in order to receive compensation from the MTR Corporation, victims would need to prove negligence or deficiency in the MTR’s handling of the incident, according to RTHK. He added that it may be difficult to prove.

He suggested that victims can ask for compensation through civil proceedings, and that the MTR consider compensating them on compassionate grounds for items such as medical expenses in order to improve its corporate image.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.