Officials mourn 'irreplaceable visionary' who earned respect and ear of Beijing Hong Kong and mainland officials were united in their grief yesterday as they mourned the death of state leader Henry Fok Ying-tung, calling him irreplaceable and one of Hong Kong's true political heavyweights. The influential vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference was praised for his years of work in fostering the mainland's economic development, Hong Kong's political ties to Beijing, and sports development. Fok was one of a rare breed of politicians who gained the respect and ear of Beijing, said Chan Wing-kee, a member of the standing committee of the CPPCC. 'I really don't see there being anyone in Hong Kong who can replace him,' Mr Chan said. The position on the mainland's top advisory body vacated by Fok need not be filled, Mr Chan said, as former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa also represents Hong Kong as a CPPCC vice-chairman. Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung said Fok served as a bridge between Hong Kong and the mainland. 'He distinguished himself by being able to effectively reflect the interests of Hong Kong to the central government,' Mr Tam said. Democratic Party legislator Martin Lee Chu-ming also praised Fok for treating the opposition camp fairly. Otto Lin Chui-chau, who had been helping Fok develop the Nansha Hi-Tech Industrial Park in Panyu since the late 1990s, said he was saddened, but insisted that the project would continue. One of the earliest investors in the mainland, Fok poured billions into realising his vision for the Nansha economic zone. The park is a joint venture with the Guangzhou government, the Fok Ying Tung Foundation, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. 'He is a pioneer and a trailblazer. His efforts in building the Pearl River Delta and the Nansha IT Park, in human resources and technology development, were visionary,' Professor Lin said. Professor Lin is a former vice-president of the university and is currently chief executive of China Nansha Technology Enterprises. Fok, who had earlier been a footballer and was an active golf and tennis player, also left an indelible mark on local sport. He served on the executive committee of the international football federation, Fifa, and was instrumental in keeping Hong Kong's independent status in the federation after the handover. Fok was also a key player behind Beijing's unsuccessful bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games. He donated millions to support the 2008 event in Beijing, including HK$200 million for the National Aquatics Centre. He was remembered as the man who was responsible for bringing football legend Pele to Hong Kong in 1974. 'He has done a great deal for local sports - not only football, but other sports as well,' said Herman Hu Shao-ming, a senior member of the Sports Commission, which is appointed by the government to oversee sports funding. The Hong Kong Football Association, a body Fok presided over from 1971 and of which he was honorary life president at the time of his death, remembered him with one minute's silence before yesterday's first division action at Mong Kok Stadium.