Keep up the June 4 struggle - last words of 'Uncle Wah'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 January, 2011, 12:00am

Hong Kong mourned the death of Szeto Wah, a staunch defender of democracy, after he lost his battle with lung cancer yesterday.

Szeto, affectionately known as 'Uncle Wah', died at Prince of Wales Hospital at 12.56pm. He was 79.

When his death was announced, the sorrow was shared by all walks of life, not just his longtime political allies and friends. People who had never met him showed up at the hospital to pay their respects.

'He has finished his path. He has guarded his faith. He now rests in peace with loved ones beside him,' said the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, who worked closely with Szeto after the June 4, 1989, crackdown in Tiananmen Square. 'His last words to Hong Kong were that [the] June 4 [movement] must be vindicated and we should hold on to the fight.'

Chu will chair a funeral committee for Szeto that comprises core members of the Democratic Party, the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China and the Professional Teachers' Union, the three influential bodies Szeto helped to found in a political career spanning four decades.

The teacher turned politician had requested that his body be cremated and half of the ashes be scattered over Hong Kong waters so they would return to the mainland, which he had not visited since 1989. The rest would be scattered in a garden at Cape Collinson Crematorium, Chu said.

The funeral will be at St Andrew's Church in Tsim Sha Tsui on January 29 and a public memorial service at Tsim Sha Tsui Baptist Church the day before. More than 1,000 internet users paid tribute on Facebook yesterday.

His doctor, Mok Shu-kam, said Szeto, admitted in January last year, had responded to chemotherapy until pneumonia hit him hard in September.

In a statement, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen expressed his condolences to Szeto's family and praised his contribution to the development of democracy in Hong Kong by supporting the controversial 2012 constitutional reform package over the summer.

'Passionate about China and Hong Kong, Mr Szeto Wah was devoted in promoting democracy. Upright, industrious and unwavering in the pursuit of his ideals, Mr Szeto earned great respect from across the community ... He will be dearly missed,' Tsang said.

Xinhua also reported the death of Szeto, but it did not provide details of his political role, apart from describing him as 'a former lawmaker who served between 1998 and 2004'.

Szeto Keung, his younger brother and a former deputy head of external affairs at Xinhua in Hong Kong, said his brother's last wish was to vindicate the June 4 movement and fight for democracy.

'I am proud of what Brother Wah has done in his entire life,' he said.

Martin Lee Chu-ming, who co-founded the Democratic Party with Szeto, said their disagreement over the approach to political reform last year did no harm to their longtime friendship.

'Of the 19 Basic Law drafters, only the two of us were genuinely working for democracy,' he said. 'And we fought our way to the Legislative Council together. I see him as my elder brother.'

Szeto's legacy will remain in the city. It was he who set out the theme for this year's June 4 candle-light vigil, which will link the Chinese Revolution of 1911 with the 1989 student movement for democracy.