City's first Ombudsman Arthur Garcia dies

Hong Kong's first Ombudsman, Arthur Garcia, has died after collapsing at his home in Happy Valley.

Garcia was taken to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai after complaining of feeling unwell after midnight on Wednesday, his wife Hilda said.

Garcia lost consciousness before the ambulance arrived and was certified dead at the hospital, she said. He was 86.

The couple, who had been married for more than 60 years, have two sons. 'My husband was a very frank person and he loved Hong Kong,' his wife said.

Garcia was the city's first Ombudsman, serving under British rule from 1989 to 1994. Before that, he was one of four High Court judges, having served as a magistrate and judge for 30 years. He took part in the selection of the first chief executive of the special administrative region in late 1996 and was also a member of the Hong Kong Press Council.

The Office of the Ombudsman expressed sadness yesterday over his death. 'Arthur Garcia was a pioneer of ombudsmanship and has made a significant contribution in promoting open, fair and effective public administration during his tenure.'


Political commentator and former lawmaker Allen Lee Peng-fei, who had known Garcia for about 30 years as a member of the Hong Kong Club, described him as a friendly and upright person.

'We discussed a lot about the transition of Hong Kong; it was one of the very key political issues in the 1980s. Mr Garcia had his own view and showed his care for the Hong Kong community,' Lee said.

Garcia was appointed in November 1988 on local contract terms to head the Ombudsman's office, which opened in February 1989. During his five years examining complaints about the establishment, he called for a number of changes to his office, including direct access by the public and empowerment to publish some of its findings.

His five-year term was not renewed in 1994, when he was 69. He commented: 'I like the job. I would like to stay on, but I'm not wanted. One of the reasons given is that I'm too old, but I'm still very effective, very healthy.'


Garcia said that were he allowed to stay longer, he would find ways to make his office more independent.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said: 'Mr Garcia was held in high regard both by his colleagues and members of the public. I had known him for years. Upright and impartial, he laid a solid foundation for the development of the Office of the Ombudsman.'