Hong Kong wheelchair climber climbs 250m up skyscraper to raise funds for spinal cord patients

  • Lai Chi-wai, who was paralysed in a car accident in 2011, was once in the top 10 best climbers globally
  • The para athlete wanted his achievement to be a reminder that disabled people are strong and capable
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Lai Chi-wai pulled himself up hundreds of metres to raise funds for spinal cord patients in Hong Kong. Photo: SCMP / Dickson Lee

Lai Chi-wai became the first person in Hong Kong to climb more than 250 metres of a skyscraper while strapped into a wheelchair, as he pulled himself up for more than 10 hours on Saturday to raise money for spinal cord patients.

The 37-year-old climber, whose car accident 10 years ago left him paralysed from the waist down, could not make it quite to the top of the 300-metre-tall Nina Tower in Tsuen Wan.

“I was quite scared,” Lai said. “Climbing up a mountain, I can hold onto rocks or little holes, but with glass, all I can really rely on is the rope that I’m hanging off.”

The event raised HK$5.2 million in donations.

Before his acceLai, prior to 2011, was crowned Asia champion four times for rock climbing and at one point ranked eighth globally.

After his accident, he resumed climbing by attaching his wheelchair to a pulley system. Five years ago he ascended the 495-metre high Lion Rock mountain, a local folk culture symbol of Hong Kong’s strength and grit.

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“Apart from just living, I wondered what drives me? So I began to chase that, knowing that there was a possibility I could climb mountains, even in a wheelchair,” Lai said.

“In a way, I forgot that I was a disabled person, I could still dream and I could still do what I liked doing.”

Although he did not make it to the top of the skyscraper, due to safety concerns, Lai hoped to send a message.

“Some people don’t understand the difficulties of disabled people, some people think that we are always weak, we need help, we need assistance, we need people’s pity,” Lai said.

“But, I want to tell everyone, it doesn’t have to be like that. If a disabled person can shine, they can at the same time bring about opportunity, hope, bring about light, they don’t have to be viewed as weak.”

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