HK mourns Lau Wong-fat, leader of New Territories
Hong Kong’s political heavyweights and social organizations on Sunday mourned the passing of legendary rural leader Lau Wong-fat, calling his death a “great loss” to the Hong Kong community.
Lau, who headed the powerful rural body Heung Yee Kuk for more than three decades, died peacefully at his home on Sunday morning, surrounded by members of his family, according to his son Kenneth Lau Ip-keung. He was 80.
In a written statement, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she was saddened at the news, and expressed her condolences to Lau’s family on behalf of the Hong Kong SAR Government.
She spoke highly of Lau’s contributions to Hong Kong in implementing “one country, two systems” and his invaluable advice on government policies, in particular, his efforts in helping the government to push forward development in the New Territories.
“Lau’s passing is a great loss for Hong Kong society. ‘Uncle Fat’, we miss you,” Lam wrote.
In a statement, the Heung Yee Kuk, which was established in 1926 to work for and promote the welfare of the indigenous people of the New Territories, praised Lau for his love for the country, the city and the rural areas in the New Territories. It especially valued his fight for local people’s interests, contributing to the overall prosperity and stability of Hong Kong as a whole.
Tributes also came from political leaders from across the political spectrum.
Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the city’s biggest political party — the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) — said she was shocked and saddened by Lau’s death.
She said Lau, a pioneer of local politics, had done enormous work for Hong Kong and the New Territories, describing the former rural chief as a role model for future politicians.
Veteran politician Tam Yiuchung recalled his work with Lau in helping to draft the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitutional document. He said Lau’s dedication and contributions in enacting laws concerning the New Territories are irreplaceable.
Former opposition lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip said Lau was a “flexible and cooperative” leader who had helped a lot in his district work.
Lau, dubbed the “King of the New Territories” for his influence among New Territories villagers and affectionately known as “Uncle Fat”, was born to a poor farmer’s family in 1936. He entered politics after being elected by local villagers to represent Tuen Mun at the age of 22 — the youngest village leader ever. He became chairman of the Tuen Mun Rural Committee in 1970 and held the position for 41 years.
In the late 1970s, when the then British Hong Kong government, in the face of a grow- ing population, planned to develop Tuen Mun into a new town, Lau played a key role in getting the government and the indigenous people to agree on settlement and compensation terms. This won him the trust of all the groups concerned, including the villagers, the government and the developers.
In recognition of his contributions to society, the government named a main road in Tuen Mun town center “Wong Chu Road” after Lau and his wife Lau Ng Mui-chu.
Lau became chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk in 1980 and was reelected eight times consecutively. He also represented the New Territories indigenous people in the Legislative Council and served in the Executive Council from the 1980s, as well as being a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. He stepped down as Kuk chairman in May 2015 for health reasons and was succeeded by his son, Kenneth Lau.
According to official documents, Lau and his family own more than 100 companies and 700 plots of land in the New Territories.