Hong Kong has inevitably resorted to “old batteries”. The sarcastic term refers to the small, self-serving clique who have always run the place on behalf of their own vested interests, and who invariably reappear, like the proverbial bad pennies, whenever the next “think tank” is formulated. But who coined this local term? British author G.K. Chesterton wrote, “My country – right or wrong – is a thing that no patriot would think of saying, except in a desperate case. It is like saying my mother, drunk or sober.” One lifelong Beijing loyalist who never said that was the redoubtable Hong Kong politician and lawyer Dorothy Liu Yiu-chu. Nicknamed “Dotty” from early childhood, this moniker referenced her defiant, seemingly contradictory individuality, as well as being a diminutive for the English name (shared with her mother) that she later publicly eschewed as a Chinese nationalist gesture. Unwavering loyal opposition and speaking truth to power have always been a scarce commodity in Hong Kong’s public life. This is seldom more apparent than among supposedly pro-China politicians, whose self-preserving, toad-like silence further quietens what passes for public debate. But not “Dotty” Liu – she told it straight. When she felt that the mainland power brokers were in the wrong, she said so. And if they didn’t like what they heard, then that was their problem. As someone who only wanted to see better from those she staunchly supported, they knew that. Consequently, her sharp-tongued honesty was tolerated, even through gritted teeth. Born in 1934 at Mount View, the family’s substantial Pok Fu Lam home, Liu could easily have enjoyed the same comfortable, blandly conformist existence as the rest of her social class. After graduation from the University of Hong Kong in 1956, she studied English literature at Oxford, then law at Harvard. Encouraged by her father, Dr Liu Yan-tak, she became a lawyer on her return home. Liu’s extended family were staunch Chinese patriots, on both sides of the Kuomintang/Communist divide; this deep nationalism informed her own views from an early age. Anna Chennault (also known by her Chinese name Chen Xiangmei), the widow of wartime Flying Tigers commander Claire Chennault, was a distant cousin; another relative, Liao Zhongkai, helped forge the first United Front between the KMT and the Communist Party in the interests of a strengthened China – he was assassinated in 1925. Liu’s independent streak became apparent during Hong Kong’s 1967 leftist-fomented riots , when she expressed support for their anti-colonial aims, though criticised the resort to terrorism. In those years, there was nothing to be gained in Hong Kong from displaying a publicly pro-China stance – and potentially a lot to lose. She also supported the central government’s decision to impose martial law in Beijing in May 1989, but loudly condemned the subsequent violent crackdown ; as a member of the National People’s Congress, she later proposed a minute’s silence for the victims. Disgust with Hong Kong Chinese turncoats , who profited from loyal service to the British, then attempted to ingratiate themselves with China when the situation changed, was a perennial theme. In one highly publicised incident in 1990, she burst into tears in Beijing at being seated next to Chung Sze-yuen, the industrialist and executive councillor whom she contemptuously dismissed as an “old battery” – coining the phrase – to enduring media delight. This sour label followed Chung until his death, aged 101, in 2018. Just before she died of pancreatic cancer in March 1997 – a few months before the handover, which, as a true China patriot, she had anticipated and tirelessly worked towards – Liu warned of “lots of puppets” soon to take power. She also presciently suggested that – eventually – the central government “may fail to allow us to have the high degree of autonomy promised to us”. And as for what “Dotty” Liu might have said about those allegedly in charge in Hong Kong today – well, that can be easily imagined.