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Wednesday, December 9, 2015, 09:08

Tu tributes cross the political divide

By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong
Tu tributes cross the political divide
Independent candidate Elsie Tu waits outside a polling station of Kwun Tong North constituency as votes are being counted during the Urban Council election in 1995. (Provided to China Daily)

Elsie Tu’s dedication to serving the underprivileged and promoting pragmatic democracy won high respect from Hong Kong’s veteran politicians across all factions — even at a time when divisive politics is in full swing.

Among those who have followed Tu’s call to act for Hong Kong’s underprivileged is Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Now the city’s chief secretary for administration, Lam recalled in a statement that she got to know Tu during social campaigns when she was still a social science student.

They last met in May, ahead of a meeting between central government officials and lawmakers in Shenzhen. Lam saw Tu as a role model for her boldness in speaking out for justice, and noted Tu offered a morale boost during the election reform.

“Her love and commitment to Hong Kong had been enduring and selfless,” Lam wrote in a statement.

Tu was among the few who stood up against the colonial might at a time when all lawmakers were chosen by the British regime.

National People’s Congress deputy Maria Tam Wai-chu praised Tu’s no-nonsense passion in taking on the colonial government as well as the sober second thoughts she injected into local politics.

Retired official David Akers-Jones recognized Tu’s call to improve the government’s communication with the public. “We have lost an Olympic champion from the community,” he said on Tuesday. “When corruption was at its height, she could get through to (governor) MacLehose on a straight line and ring him up.”

The 102-year-old never lost touch with Hong Kong’s fast-evolving society. Lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung noted Tu remained concerned and active in Hong Kong’s development despite her advanced age. He hailed her pragmatism and rational approach to cooperation with the central government.

Tam recounted her continued advice to Hong Kong’s youth: “It is my dearest wish that young people… see life according to the facts as they are, that they will face these facts, and that they will not be deceived by ideals that are meant to deceive or even control them.”

Tu tributes cross the political divide
Staff members of United Christian Hospital move the body of Elsie Tu, social activist and former member of the Urban and Legislative Councils, who died on Tuesday. (Provided to China Daily)
The political circle saw Tu as an early advocate for democracy, but her relationship with the opposition camp had turned sour throughout the 1990s. She summed up the mindset of late opposition leader Szeto Wah in 1995: “Mr Szeto Wah doesn’t know the meaning of democracy because if you don’t agree with him you are wrong.”

Ironically, Szeto was later credited for being the opposition’s moderate compass before his death in 2011.

Martin Lee Chu-ming, former Democratic Party chairman and Basic Law drafter, praised Tu. Her lifetime contribution deserved a lot of appreciation among young people, he said.

Education and anti-corruption are the two areas of Tu’s work that are most remembered. Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim lauded Tu for nurturing thousands of young people over the decades with the Mu Kuang English School.

Simon Peh Yun-lu, commissioner of Hong Kong’s much-admired Independent Commission Against Corruption, credited Tu’s anti-graft campaigns in the early days with paving the way for the setting-up of the agency.

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