• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 10:56am

Kwai Tsing dock workers strike

On March 28, 2013, dock workers at Kwai Tsing took industrial action seeking a 17 per cent pay rise. The port is operated by Hongkong International Terminals (HIT).

NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong political veteran Elsie Tu criticises tycoons with no conscience

Political veteran Elsie Tu says things are getting worse in Hong Kong as the wealth gap widens

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 12:48pm


  • Yes: 79%
  • No: 21%
22 Apr 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 686

Political veteran Elsie Tu laments the widening income disparity in Hong Kong and has taken a shot at tycoons who have no conscience.

The former lawmaker and urban councillor, who turns 100 on June 2, became emotional when expressing sympathy for striking dock workers and anger with a billionaire, whom she declined to name.

"I think shame on you. Why should you have [billions of dollars] when the poor can't even buy meat for their children's food?" she said. "How could you have [billions of dollars] and still want more? The dockers are getting so little and their conditions are disgraceful."

Hundreds of dockers have been fighting for more than three weeks for a pay rise and better working conditions from port operator Hongkong International Terminals, a unit of Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa.

Tu, born in Newcastle, England, settled in Hong Kong in 1951 after three years of missionary work on the mainland. She is perceived by some as pro-Beijing and became known for her antipathy towards colonialism and corruption as well as her fight for the underdog and work in education.

Years on, she sighs about the widening income gap.

"I have a horrible feeling it's going down again. I think things are getting worse now. It makes me so angry," she said, urging both the government and the well-off to do more to narrow the wealth gap.

"We have some rich men who have a conscience. We have some rich men who seem to have no conscience. The elderly people in Hong Kong are not getting what they need. Some elderly people can manage, but there are others who are getting HK$1,000-something a month, now it's going be HK$2,000. That's better, but even that - where do you have the money to pay the rent?" asked Tu.

Her passion to serve the community, Tu said, was seeded by her father, John Hume, and deepened through years of service to society.

"He was the one who said to me, 'You must respect people everywhere'."

Tu served as an urban councillor from 1963 to 1995, as a lawmaker from 1988 to 1995 and a member of the Provisional Legco from 1997 to 1998.

She said the gratitude of the public was her motivation in the face of difficulties and pressure from the colonial government to silence her.

With her 100th birthday looming, Tu said: "I usually have the same wish - and that is we can have a world at peace instead of all wanting to fight. I have seen a first world war, second world war. I don't want to see another."


More on this story

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Keep on fighting Elsie. Hong Kong owes you much.
Without your efforts in the 1960s,we would have never had a Governor like Murry MacLehose, who not only cleaned up endemic corruption but whose social conscience found its way into Government initiatives such as an improved health service, more public housing and rent controls. Unfortunately the local administration under Bow-Tie and Horay-Henry has just spent the last decade squeezing social programmes and safety nets, while handing more of Hong Kong's wealth on a plate to landlords and tycoons. We need rent controls re-imposed and shorter working hours for the low paid and this should happen today.
Conscience is immeasurable. Money can be counted and it is measurable. In the world of business in Hong Kong and China what we see the preference is for counting. Conscience blocks the counting so life can do without it.
I don’t know Elise Tu personally. I have learned though much of her views about Hong Kong through her letter writings at SCMP. It is easy to find her letters while political and courageously expressed, was grounded on her love of the Chinese culture and people. The interview before her 100 birthday is just as feisty as those letters. She should be rightly honored to be the lady of true conscience of Hong Kong.
Thanks too to SCMP for keeping in touch of one of its readers.
hard times !
'She sighs about the widening income gap in this city where the No.1 salaryman,Canning Fok Kin-ling,( the right-handed man of the richest old guy in Asia,Li Ka-shing, earns HK$180 millions last year as the managing director of Whampoa Hutchison which belongs to Cheung Kong Holdings owned by Li family.) openly expressed his doubts that the poorly-paid dockers (on strke) who earn HK$20,000 a month on average have/had to work in poor envirnonment and even taking shifts around the clock ! He shamelessly said that even his son (the 2nd generation of the rich ?) has to work 20-hour per day (maybe a financial analyst in a multi-national corporation) ! Shame on these three over-greedy but misery guys:Li Ka-shing,Victor Li and Canning Fok !!
hard times !
The tycoons who have no conscience in town must include the Li family's Li Ka-shing (who claimed that being a gentleman,one should grab his wealth in a decent way and he always says that he loves Hong Kong and won't hurt the interests of Hong Kong.But this time in the dockers' strike what he has/hasn't done demonstrates that he is just another hypocrite who cares about money (which he can never bring with him to another world but just left to his playboy-typed eldest son,Victor who is well-known for his patronizing beauties in town and elsewhere) more than anything else---excluding a good fame: donating money from time to time.But never takes care of his employees/ outsourcing workers' interests.
hard times !
barvo,now even the pro-establishment, pro-Bejing former lawmaker and urban councillor, Mrs.Elsie Tu (unlike Elsie Leung Oi-see of course) has come out to criticize at that unnamed billionaire in town who own billions but refuses to let the striking dockers' families have meat in their children's bowls ! Do this billionaire and his elder son have any conscience ? Certainly not ! The parity between the rich and the poorin town , as Mrs.Tu described, is widening.Now the unscrupulous HIT (which is said to be only 27% owned by Whampoa Hutchison which belongs to Cheung Kong Holdings of Li family) has advertisements in free newspapers attacking the dockers on strike and shamelessly defend its own plight ! How shameless this Canning Fok Kin-ling and his alike, Yam Yui-fei are ! They are trying to mislead Hongkongers by spending money on advertisements instead of raising the pay and working conditions of the dockers on strike ! Shame on them indeed !!!

Hong Kong is an extreme practical town: insensible to the intangible. Let us change it. Let us all make Mrs. Tu’s birthday be celebrated as a ‘Conscience Day’ – hope the government would join in as well.
hard times !
wishing that Ms Elise Tu could live over 100 as she probably will be ! Long live our fighter for justice and human rights plus social harmony in the past decades !
Finally glad and happy to see SCMP reporting on the words of a true lady with a conscience for HK......unlike all those policitial wannabe's like Anson Chan and etc...........who only want a piece of the limelight when they say meaningless comments to the public.
Our society needs to reward and respect more to the blue labors. Australian HIT dockers get minimum A$80k a year which is competitive to their white collar peers. I am not saying our dockers need to get paid the same as their Australian counterpart but our labor force need some respect and fair judgement. While in HK and China, we don't respect people who use their hands to make money but just encourage people to study and study to work in the office. Those who are dockers, chef, mechanics alike are contributing a lot to the society, to serve all of us, but why are they being paid substantially lower than the one who work at the desk?
We may think we are smart. But please understand always you will get what you pay for. For example, we don't pay well to our farmers in China, that's why we are getting food that are full of chemicals because farmers can't survive and need to cut corners. At the end of the day, we all suffer.
"I have a horrible feeling it's going down again. I think things are getting worse now. It makes me so angry," she (Mrs Elsie Tu) said, urging both the government and the well-off to do more to narrow the wealth gap - Hong Kong has become a sad place, everything evolves around the unaffordability of basic life essentials. A few elites and powerful run Hong Kong, their power is so great that even the government has to kowtow to them. Communism in China did not come over night, it was a result of prolonged suffering of its people at large. Perhaps it is time for Hong Kongers who love Hong Kong and Pan-demoncrats to realise the real issues that need to be tackled before it is too late. The dockers need support, the old and aged need support, the less priviledged children need support, the poorly paid teachers need support, the poorly paid nurses need support, fhe old ladies pulling the rubbish carts or picking up rubbish need support, the hardworkers who work two swifts need support, the mortagees who paid excessive cost for a pathetic miniture apartments need support, those waiting for government flats need support, the list can go on..... To the Hong Kongers with conscience, it is time to act. Mrs Elsie Tu, be our leader, call it Day of Conscience, fix a date, and ask all Hong Kongers with conscience to take a long lunch and take the afternoon off, quietly make their way home, like typhoon is coming.



SCMP.com Account