Last week, Tang Siu-pun, better known as Ah Bun, moved into his own home after spending 19 years in a hospital after an injury to his spine paralysed him. Physically, Ah Bun still requires a hi-tech sensor-controlled wheelchair to facilitate his movements. But mentally, Ah Bun has an intellectual agility and strength of character that puts the rest of us to shame. His story illustrating how the human will is able to overcome adversity is an inspiration to us all.
In November 2003, Ah Bun wanted to die. He wrote an open letter to then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa highlighting his plight, and pleaded for legalised euthanasia so his misery could be put to an end: 'I am totally useless. I am a financial and mental burden to my family,' he wrote. But last week, as he moved into a Sham Shui Po public housing estate, he listed future plans and his desire to live as ordinary a life as possible. Instead of relying solely on social security, he will also receive income from writing columns and has chosen to live apart from his parents. In the space of seven years, Ah Bun has taught himself to live a more constructive and fulfilling life than many us who complain of any form of transport apart from a private vehicle as an inconvenience.
Ah Bun has not only overcome his own hurdles, but also helped society confront its taboo on euthanasia, making an impassioned and reasoned case for a right to die. In another open letter, he described how he was affected by the sight of blood spurting out of a man's lips because he had bitten them so hard from the pain of his injuries. He has published a 300-page book entitled I Want Euthanasia, which is often cited by many medical academics. But despite his stance on euthanasia, he also wrote a letter to paralysed policeman Jacky Chu Chun-kwok, urging him to keep up his resolve to recover. Arguably, the story of Ah Bun can also be used as an example by opponents of legalised euthanasia as proof of how life can be fulfilling no matter how dire the circumstances. Either way, Ah Bun has shown that no matter how difficult the circumstances, or how taboo the subject, we should not fear confronting them.