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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 06/98: Hong Kong Handover Anniversary  
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Hong Kong Handover Anniversary Tuesday, 30 June, 1998, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Hong Kong: better all the time
Elsie Tu graphic
For Elsie Tu, life since the handover is even better. Mrs Tu, 85, has spent her life campaigning on behalf of Hong Kong's underprivileged. Chinese rule, she says, has created a more caring society. Born in England, she travelled to Hong Kong first to work as a missionary 47 years ago. She later became a community activist and an elected official. Mrs Tu, who was made a CBE in 1978, is now a member of Hong Kong's Provisional Legislative Assembly.

I cannot see that there have been any radical changes since reunification. There are plans to improve the living conditions of the people, but we need a little time to implement them.

What I see now is not a colonial system seeking special benefits for British civil servants and business, but a more caring government planning for its people (including foreign residents).

It was my expectation that China would fulfil the promise of the Basic Law, enacted after consultation with many people from Hong Kong. There is no doubt in my mind that China would have kept the promises of the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. It was boorish of Chris Patten - ignorant of Hong Kong, Chinese and Asian affairs - to try to change the law thereby delaying the democratic process for a year.

The Basic Law is now back on track and everything has been observed to the letter. Under Britain I had only the "right to land"; under Chinese sovereignty I now have "right of abode". I am now a permanent resident.

I began my sojourn in Hong Kong by chance in February 1951. I had been a missionary in Jiangxi Province, China, for three years, and along with most missionaries, left in 1951 when the Korean War began.

The small group to which I belonged intended to go to Borneo via Hong Kong. We believed that, as a British colony, our missionary services would not be required. However, the facts proved that, if Hong Kong did not need Christian missionaries, it did need people to struggle for human rights and justice.

Having been approached by some Chinese Christian refugees living in a squatter area to stay and work with them, it was my expectation then to continue as a missionary in Hong Kong.

I soon realised that I did not fit into the missionary ideal. I left to crusade for education and justice. My aim was to fight the corruption that was threatening the underprivileged. As a qualified teacher I wanted to introduce education for all. Tens of thousands were without schooling. That is why, even now, many Hong Kong people, especially women, are illiterate.

I joined the only body that had elected members, the Urban Council (a Municipal Council, partially elected). In 1966, after riots sparked off by injustices, I went to lobby Members of Parliament in London to ask for one or two members of the Legislative Council to be elected as a voice for the people.

Every effort then and thereafter was frustrated on the grounds that 1966 was too near to the end of the lease in 1997 to consider such changes.

The struggle for democratic change continued until 1979 when preliminary talks began about the change of sovereignty in 1997. When the Joint Declaration in 1984 promised that China would give us an elected system in 1997, it was a huge improvement over anything Britain had offered in one and a half centuries.

True, there have been misfortunes: the Asian flu, cholera, red tide killing fish-farms, and the fall in many Asian economies affecting Hong Kong and causing serious unemployment. The depression caused by these unforeseen disasters has removed much of the euphoria of a year ago.

There has been freedom for anti-Beijing elements to demonstrate, through some leaders have further damaged our economy by predicting doom and keeping away tourists and investors.

But Britain left a form of government that could have achieved more if it had included the 'democracy' it was supposed to embrace. It left a social system that owes it beginnings to Governor Sir Murray (now Lord) Maclehose, and hopefully by my efforts.

I hope Hong Kong will eventually have a form of government (not necessarily a Western type) that will look after the interests of the people upon whom business depends, and the interests of business upon which the people depend.

Links to more Hong Kong Handover Anniversary stories are at the foot of the page.


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