Veteran politician Chung Sze-yuen, who fought for preservation of Hong Kong’s freedoms during negotiations with London and Beijing in the pre-handover era, died in Hong Kong at the age of 101.
Chung, who was regarded as the “Godfather of Hong Kong politics”, passed away at St. Teresa’s Hospital peacefully in the early hours of Wednesday, surrounded by his family members.
Shelley Lee Lai-kuen, former permanent secretary for Home Affairs, who is assisting in taking care of Chung’s funeral affairs, told media that a mourning hall will be set up at the Hong Kong Funeral Home in North Point, but added that there won’t be any public service, in keeping with Chung’s will.
After learning of Chung’s death, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor offered her condolences to his family and paid rich tributes to the departed political figure.
Expressing deep sorrow over the passing, Lam said in a statement that Chung had served the community for many years and that his contributions can be seen in many areas including politics, education, medical care and engineering.
“The spirit of [his] selfless sacrifice for Hong Kong will always be in our hearts,” Lam said in the statement.
Lam had been invited to Chung’s birthday banquets in recent years. On Nov. 3, Lam hosted a lunch at her official residence in celebration of Chung’s 101st birthday.
The event turned out to be Chung’s last public appearance, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Born in Hong Kong in 1917, Chung graduated with a first-class honors degree from the University of Hong Kong and later received a doctoral degree in engineering in the United Kingdom.
He had served as a member of the Legislative Council for 13 years and a member of the Executive Council for 16 years before the handover. In six of the years, he was a member of both Councils, making him attain the highest status among all the Chinese in the political sector at that time.
During the negotiations between China and Britain on Hong Kong’s post-handover future in the 1980s, Chung, along with the late Lee Quo-wei, a non-official Exco member, and Baroness Lydia Dunn, who was also a member of both Councils like Chung, was invited to visit Beijing in 1984.
The group conducted a number of visits to Beijing and London to reflect the views of Hong Kong people, in the negotiations between the two sides on Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.
During a meeting with the-then state leader Deng Xiaoping, the three Hong Kong representatives told Deng in his face that there was a crisis of confidence among Hong Kong people in relation to the city’s future.
In an interview in 2010, Chung said his role during the negotiation period was very awkward as London saw him as China’s agent while Beijing viewed him as a traitor.
Still, the efforts of the Chung team ended up contributing to Hong Kong’s smooth transition during the crucial moment, a point Lam highlighted in her statement Wednesday.
Even after his retirement from active politics in 1988, Chung was still named as Beijing’s Hong Kong Affairs Advisor and a member of the HKSAR preparatory committee.
After the 1997 handover, Chung became the first non-official convener of Hong Kong’s Executive Council. He served in that position for two years before his second retirement.
In a statement, Dunn, who is a director of John Swire & Sons, praised Chung, saying he had made great contributions that were both deep and comprehensive to Hong Kong.
She described Chung as a person who was honest, principled, selfless and fearless.
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