Amoy residents ready to host Wen if he returns
Ada Lee and Gary Cheung
People who welcomed Premier Wen Jiabao to their Sars-hit estate on his last trip to Hong Kong say they will happily host him again after he said he 'really wants' to revisit.
Wen, speaking at his final post-National People's Congress press conference, said yesterday that he wanted to speak again to residents of Amoy Gardens in Ngau Tau Kok, which he visited in June 2003, shortly after the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak.
Wen, who will soon retire, also wants to meet students at the University of Hong Kong, which he also visited in 2003, soon after taking office. It was his only visit to Hong Kong as premier.
William Yip Hing-kwok, chairman of the Amoy Gardens owners committee, said the Kwok family, who hosted the premier in their flat, had since moved, but memories of the visit remained fresh.
'It's not only that he's a leader of the country, but his visit really made us feel there were still people who cared about us,' he said. 'Many Hongkongers were too afraid to step into the estate at that time.'
Some 329 people on the estate were struck down by Sars, and Wen's visit, three months after the outbreak, saw him cradle the child of Kwok Sin-hung, who lost his wife to Sars shortly after the birth.
The HKU students' union said it would welcome 'anyone, including leaders from Beijing' to speak to students, despite the controversy over security arrangements that soured a visit by Wen's deputy Li Keqiang during the university's centenary celebrations last year.
An HKU spokesman said it would welcome Wen on a return visit.
Wen's 2003 visit also took him to a bakery and the Sha Tin New Town Plaza mall, with the South China Morning Post reporting at the time that he had 'won hearts' but avoided addressing controversial issues.
Wen yesterday praised the development of Hong Kong in the years since the 1997 handover, recalling a poem he had read during his 2003 visit urging Hongkongers to dedicate themselves to the improvement of the city and the country.
'Fifteen years on, the development in Hong Kong has proved the vitality of the 'one country, two systems' formula and 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong',' he said.
The poem he read was by 19th century diplomat and patriot Huang Zunxiang, and was based on an ancient myth about a bird dropping mud into the sea to reclaim land.
'Wen wants to tell Hong Kong people that, no matter how the political development in mainland China unfolds, Hongkongers should show their commitment to the betterment of the country,' veteran journalist Ching Cheong said.