The Harder They Fall: 216 HK windows have come crashing down since ’16, lawmaker says

Police have cordoned off the area where a window pane fell and landed on a female passer-by in Tsim Sha Tsui. Screengrab via Apple Daily video.
Police have cordoned off the area where a window pane fell and landed on a female passer-by in Tsim Sha Tsui. Screengrab via Apple Daily video.

Just over a month after a window plummeted from a Tsim Sha Tsui hotel and killed a passerby, a Hong Kong official yesterday acknowledged just how commonplace falling windows are in the city, with more than 200 reported in the last three years.

In a written response to a question from lawmaker Tony Tse, Secretary for Development Michael Wong said that, as of December, the Buildings Department had received 216 reports of windows falling from buildings aged 10 years or older since it began keeping track in 2016. He added that there were no statistics on fatalities during that time, if any, but that the department would track that going forward.

The acknowledgement was part of a response to a broader inquiry into the effectiveness of the city’s Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme (MWIS), which was implemented in 2012. Under the scheme, the department is empowered to compel owners of buildings 10 years old or older to commission safety inspections of their windows, but other statistics cited by the secretary reveal a substantial lag in enforcement of the orders.

Since 2012, the department has issued half a million notices to the owners of nearly 10,000 buildings instructing them to have their windows inspected under the thinking that “prevention is better than cure,” as Wong’s response puts it.

However, of those 500,000 notices, some 59,000 have still not been addressed, with the longest noncompliant case stretching back six years.

The department has issued just 3,700 fines in that period, and hasn’t prosecuted a single case of noncompliance — though Wong noted that the department “is planning to instigate prosecution actions against the more blatant cases.”

The inquiry was prompted by a handful of reports of falling windows in the city, most notably a case in late January when a window fell from the Mira Hong Kong hotel after it was opened by a member of the cleaning staff. It plummeted 16 stories, fatally striking a pedestrian on the street below.

The cleaner was arrested, but later released on bail on the condition she return to the police station at a later date.

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