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A fighter who will not be forgotten

Fanny Wong

She was outspoken and tough. She had a sharp-tongue and never gave up. She loved to mix with people and was always full of fun. Liu Yiu-chu was a patriot and a beloved daughter of China.

But these images of Liu have become but memories - the maverick left her family and friends on Sunday after battling against a blocked pancreas.

There were no press or dignitaries to say a final goodbye - quietly, Liu, a gregarious person who always livened up the gatherings she attended, bid farewell to the territory, closing the chapter of her life on Earth.

A patriot through and through, Liu had always been unconventional and controversial. Unlike many 'new-born' patriots who discovered their 'roots' in China in recent years, her love for the motherland survived the test of time.

In good times or bad, she stood by China - from the turbulent years of the 1960s riots when the left-wing was condemned by the colonial administration to the triumphant days of Hong Kong's imminent return to the motherland, Liu had always been a staunch defender of its interests.

Unlike others who only parroted the party line on many Hong Kong issues, Liu, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), was honest and upright enough to point to China's mistakes and appeal for change. That won her as many friends in the community as enemies in the pro-China camp.

As soon as mainland officials began to cold-shoulder Liu, many who had surrounded her when she was considered a confidante of the Beijing leadership started to distance themselves from her. A passionate person, she must have found it hard to see their true colours.

But the strong-willed lawyer was never disheartened. Instead she worked harder to impress friend and foe alike that Liu Yiu-chu would never fall and would always do what she considered right.

That was why she never stopped criticising China whenever she saw something wrong. Even in her final hours at Queen Mary Hospital, she performed one last service to the community by appealing to Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa to uphold Hong Kong's rule of law and not blindly support the provisional legislature.

Liu demonstrated the true qualities of a genuine patriot. She set a model for many in Hong Kong to follow. But sadly, her goodwill and good intentions were not fully appreciated by mainland officials.

Despite her nine years with the NPC and her unfailing devotion to drafting the Basic Law and preparing the Special Administrative Region, to date, no leader from Zhongnanhai has offered words of condolence and news of her death received scant treatment by prominent left-wing papers, Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao.

While many dailies devoted a full page to her death and editorials commending her contributions to Hong Kong, the two leftist papers were far less generous. News of her passing did not appear on their main news pages nor were there tributes to her hard work of 40 years.

Many would agree that such low-key news treatment was unusual for a loyal supporter of China. Some in the pro-China camp said mainland officials had never forgiven her for speaking against the Preliminary Working Committee and the provisional legislature. It would be most regrettable if such a suggestion was true.

For a patriot who was not accepted by the community in her early days, Liu eventually won the hearts of Hong Kong. Chinese officials should have known her better and given her the recognition she deserved.

But even if they could not come to terms with the honesty and principles she displayed, Liu would have had no regrets, because she will be fondly remembered by the community she served.