HK mourns Lau Wong-fat, leader of New Ter­ri­to­ries

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By LUIS LIU in Hong Kong luis­liu@chi­nadai­

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.

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