A long-serving village elder who had fought for the rights and interests of people in the New Territories most of his life died on Sunday. He was 80.
Lau Wong-fat, often called “Uncle Fat”, died peacefully at home surrounded by family members, according to his son Kenneth Lau, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The incumbent chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk, a statutory advisory body that has one seat in the functional constituencies in the Legislative Council, did not reveal the cause of his father’s death.
Also known as “King of New Territories”, Lau Wong-fat had presided over the Heung Yee Kuk for 35 years before he passed the torch to his son in 2015. He also retired as a lawmaker that year after having held the seat for 31 years.
Lamenting Lau’s death, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement that Lau, who was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal in 2005, had made valuable contributions to Hong Kong and he will always be missed.
“Lau dedicated his life to the New Territories, led the Heung Yee Kuk for a long period of time and was revered by rural residents.
“He loved Hong Kong and our country, making tremendous contributions in Hong Kong’s return to the motherland and the successful implementation of ‘one country, two systems’.” Lam said.
“His passing is a great loss to the Hong Kong community,” Lam said.
The Heung Yee Yuk mourned Lau’s death in a statement, saying that Lau successfully implemented listing the “lawful traditional rights and interests” of the indigenous inhabitants of the New Territories into Article 40 of the Basic Law.
The most recent incident that put Lau in the spotlight took place on June 18, 2015, when pro-establishment lawmakers walked out of the chamber to wait for Lau to arrive cast his yes vote for the political reform package.
But Lau, who was under the weather then, was too late for the vote, resulting in victory for the democrats, who successfully voted it down.
He had never been seen in public since he showed up at the Heung Yee Kuk to support his son as chairman in July 2015.
While Lau is lauded by many political figures for his devotion to the New Territories, he had also been criticized for manipulating the small house policy for personal and his family’s interests.
Lau had been accused of profiting from residential projects developed under the policy, which entitles an indigenous male villager aged 18 and above who is descended from a resident of a recognized New Territories village in 1898 to one concessionary grant during his lifetime to build one small house.
New Territories West lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who is acquainted with Lau, said Lau’s place in the Heung Yee Kuk is no doubt irreplaceable but the patriarchal politics represented by Lau was also abnormal.
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