Tributes to HK hero, fears for orphans he saved

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 April, 2011, 12:00am


Hongkonger Wong Fuk-wing was a hero to the children and teachers at the orphanage in Yushu, Qinghai, for whom he gave his life while working there as a volunteer when the earthquake struck last year.

The orphanage, which has not been rebuilt, is paying another orphanage to house its 54 children and is now facing closure for lack of funds.

Wong, called Ah Fu by his friends, was 46 when he died trying to save people from the collapsed buildings. had initially escaped unscathed, then returned to pull out three children and a teacher before a severe aftershock shook loose debris that fell on him as he tried to save two other teachers.

Wong's two sisters, a brother-in-law, some friends from Hong Kong, and more than 400 Xining officials and residents attended a first anniversary memorial ceremony yesterday in Xining, the provincial capital.

One of his sisters gave a speech during the ceremony. 'Ah Fu's spirit should be carried on by more people,' she said. 'We should not forget [his spirit] after today's ceremony.'

Azhou, one of the chief organisers at the Jamste Charity Association Orphanage where Ah Fu was killed, attended the ceremony. He said two other ceremonies took place yesterday - in Yushu, at the former site of the orphanage, and in Jainca county, at an orphanage that took in its children. The Yushu orphanage had set up a tent dedicated to Ah Fu in which 108 butter-oil lamps have been burning every day since June - a Tibetan tradition to honour the dead. Yesterday, 400 more candles were lit, and others were arranged in the characters of Ah Fu's name. Tibetans believe the more candles lit, the better it is for the dead person. Two poems were hung on the wall alongside his picture in Xining.

'If there is love in the next life, please travel across the snowy mountain and plateau and come bring away our best wishes and blessings for you,' one said.

After lighting the candles, the group of friends then squeezed inside the tent and chanted sutras for Ah Fu. They also followed Tibetan tradition by burning barley bread and pieces of a Tibetan prayer flag for him. 'We all miss him,' Azhou said, adding that he would tell Wong's family about the difficulties facing the Yushu orphanage.

He said that after the quake it had received many donations but they gradually tapered off.

The Yushu orphanage had 22 orphans when the quake hit and took in the 32 more whose parents were killed. The cost to house them still falls on the Yushu orphanage.

'To keep them in Jainca, we need at least 530,000 yuan [HK$629,000] a year, but with the money we have on hand, we might have to close before the end of this year,' Azhou said.

The Yushu orphanage is trying to rebuild, and Azhou said the land application was still being processed. Living conditions at the Jainca county orphanage are better than they were in Yushu.

Another thing: the orphans have been slowly recovering from the depression of the quake, Azhou said, 'but any news related to quakes will still easily bother them'.

'After the Japanese earthquake, the orphans for few days were scared to sleep inside and could sleep only in tents,' he said.

'And they always ask me: 'When can we go home?''