21 May 2019
Momo Cheng Hoi-yan (left), 26, donated a part of her liver to save a dying mother. Photo: Now TV
Momo Cheng Hoi-yan (left), 26, donated a part of her liver to save a dying mother. Photo: Now TV

Momo Cheng beats Carrie Lam as Person of the Year

What does it take to become the Person of the Year? For this year, the winner of the award is not a top official running a good government, a famous sports personality or a respected businessman.

She is an ordinary office worker who did a selfless act when hardly anyone else even thought of doing so. 

She is none other than the previously nameless, faceless stranger who donated two-thirds of her liver to a dying mother.

The Good Samaritan was later identified as Momo Cheng Hoi-yan, a 26-year-old lady clerk who had no blood relation or any other connection to the woman she helped.

For her brave and noble deed, listeners of RTHK’s current affairs program Backchat voted her to be the 2017 Person of the Year.

Momo, also known as Ah Yan, bested other candidates nominated by the program’s listeners. The shortlist included Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, unbeaten boxing champion Rex Tso Sing-yu, the late Shanghai Tang founder Sir David Wing-cheung Tang, athlete Vera Lui Lai-yiu who joined the global #MeToo movement by revealing the alleged sexual molestation she suffered in the hands of a former coach, disqualified legislator Nathan Law Kwun-chung, who was later jailed, child singer Celine Tam Tsz-kwan, who captivated people around the world with her voice but later failed to make it to the finals of America’s Got Talent, and even US President Donald Trump.

In a city that tends to measure the worth of an individual by their bank account more than anything else, donating an organ to a stranger was unheard of. 

But when Momo learned from the news that 43-year-old mother Tang Kwai-sze needed a liver transplant to be saved from death following a medical blunder – the patient’s daughter was willing to donate an organ but was unqualified for being underage – she stepped up and went to the surgery room.

Momo recalled that part of the process of donating an organ is to answer a set of questions prepared by a clinical psychologist.

The toughest question, yet the most common, was: “Why do you want to help someone you do not know?”

Her answer was frank and simple: “I do not know.”

Momo, whose mother recovered from hepatitis, said it is worthwhile to take the 0.5 percent risk of a surgery failure in the face of a 90 percent successful transplant rate.

But life is unpredictable. Tang died four months after a second transplant.

Mark Michelson, chairman of Asia CEO Forum at IMA Asia, said:  “Every once in a while we saw headlines of people in distress for donation – heart, or liver or something else, and they are not getting it. In this case, someone steps up. Maybe it would encourage others.”

One of those inspired by Momo’s gift of life is yours truly. I signed up to be an organ donor last year, and I hope many more would follow suit to boost the city’s 3 percent organ donation rate.

Likewise, one doesn’t have to be a winner to make it to the list of candidates for the Person of the Year award.

Nathan Law, once the youngest legislator who got the most votes on Hong Kong Island, was disqualified over his oath-taking and later jailed for his involvement in a pro-democracy protest. Only a few local politicians had a more roller-coaster ride in life than the 25-year-old college student who also co-founded the Demosistō political party. But give him some time; his political star is still on the rise.

Another colorful personality on the shortlist is Kwok Cheuk-kin, the “king of judicial reviews”, who had mounted an untiring campaign for justice. 

He had applied for over 30 judicial reviews, including those covering the government’s co-location plan for the Express Rail Link, Beijing’s Aug. 31, 2014 constitutional reform, the Small House policy and many others, without much success.

We hope the Septuagenarian will live for at least another 30 years so that someone will continue to hold up the torch of the “one country, two systems” principle.

Listen to RTHK’s Backchat program on the Person of the Year:

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

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