Honour for envoy who saved Jews

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 12:00am

Israel will next month present the title of righteous among the nations to the family of a Chinese diplomat who saved the lives of as many as 4,000 Jews during World War II.

He will be only the third Chinese to receive this honour - but the Government he served will not be at the ceremony.

Ho Feng-shan was consul-general of the Republic of China in Vienna between 1938 and 1940 and issued visas to hundreds, possibly thousands of Jews, in defiance of explicit instructions from his superior, the Chinese ambassador in Berlin, and pressure from the Nazi government.

He issued visas to Shanghai to those who wished to go there and to others who wanted to go elsewhere but needed a visa to leave Nazi-occupied territory.

Israel awards the honour of righteous among the nations to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II.

The Yad Vashem museum of the Holocaust in Jerusalem will present the award on January 23 to Mr Ho's son and daughter, both US citizens, at a ceremony to be attended by families of those to whom he gave visas and officials of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and from the Chinese Embassy in Israel.

But no one will be there representing Taiwan, the Republic of China that Mr Ho served through a long and distinguished diplomatic career, because his family objects to their presence.

After 1945, Mr Ho was ambassador to several countries in South America, including Colombia, his last post before he retired in 1970. One of his colleagues accused him of misappropriating US$300 (HK$2,334) while he was ambassador in Bogota, a charge angrily rejected by him and his family, who say that it was trumped up by a subordinate bitter that Mr Ho did not recommend him for a promotion.

After his retirement, he did not return to Taiwan and moved to California, where he died in 1997. The Taiwan Government never paid him a pension or cleared his name. In 1985 he was impeached and barred from any official post.

His family is so bitter about his treatment by the Taiwan Government that they asked that no representative be invited to next month's ceremony.