Screen grab of the virtual reality tour at a murder scene. Photo: facebook/ 20,000 Ways To Die In Yau Ma Tei
A student Christian group has crossed into the realm of blood, gore and crime in Hong Kong – topics people usually associate with Hell rather than Heaven – producing a virtual reality tour that officially goes live on Thursday on YouTube.
The Student Christian Movement of Hong Kong (SCM), a liberal ecumenical group, started a community tour 20,000 Ways To Die In Yau Ma Tei around Halloween last year. The 1.5km route features some of the most notorious murder scenes in the city, which happens to have one of the world’s lowest crime rates.
“Many local schools with a Christian background, especially evangelists, barred students from celebrating Halloween, believing this was worshipping the devil,” said Chen Ho-lok, executive secretary of the student movement.
The philosophy graduate traced the origin of the now festive celebration back to All Saint’s Day. “That day is about the relationship between the living and the dead. We think we can do something about death,” he said.
The walking tour featured locations in Yau Ma Tei district, Kowloon, where deaths have occurred. They include a public toilet block where male drug abusers were found dying in every cubicle, the street where an Indonesian woman Wiji Astutik Supardi was found dead in a mattress in 2015 and the case of Hong Kong model Annie Pang-chor.
In 1999, Pang’s skeletal remains were found in a flat owned by John Fang Meng-sang, the brother of former top official Anson Chan Fang On-sang. Pang was found four years after she had died. An inquest in the Coroner’s Court ruled her death had been accidental.
Now the walking tour can be viewed in virtual reality, with a launch party to be held in Wan Chai on Thursday.
“We want to take the project into the next stage,” Chen said, citing steamy hot summer days that may not be suitable for a long walk on the busy inner city streets of the Asian financial hub.
The VR production consists of 10 short videos inviting the audience to revisit those “uncanny, weird murders” and to “feel the vibe of Hong Kong with flesh and blood,” the group wrote on its Facebook event page.
The videos are narrated in Cantonese with Chinese subtitles that explain the background and social implications behind each crime scene.
One high-profile case involved the stabbing death of a 7-11 convenience store owner on Pitt Street outside an exit of the Yau Ma Tei MTR station last year. Mainstream media reported that the suspect was a South Asian man, leading to accusations of stereotyping. The police later arrested the suspect, who was a Vietnamese-Canadian.