by Ann Lau
At the Memorial Service for Szeto Wah in Los Angeles on January 30, 2011

Szeto Wah, Hong Kong legislator, Professional Teachers’ Union organizer, co-founder of the Democratic Party and Chair of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Movements in China was once asked how he would describe himself and he answered, “I am a patriot”.

Szeto Wah was indeed a patriot who dedicated his life to his people in promoting democracy for Hong Kong and China. 

As Chair of Visual Artists Guild, I had the privilege of interviewing Szeto Wah on a number of occasions.  During those times when I chatted with him one on one, I found him to be a man who had a great love for his people. 

When I asked him to comment on the term “Asian Value” which argued that to Asians, human rights means economic rights and that civil and political rights are merely western ideas, Szeto Wah had this to say, “Are Asians not human beings? Why can’t Asians enjoy freedoms? Can only westerners enjoy freedom?  Are we not undervaluing ourselves?  As a human being, our mouth is used not only to eat but also to speak.  If we are allowed to eat and not speak, the meaning of a human being will be reduced.  We know that even animals need to have a full stomach.  Giving people only the right to have a full stomach is not a type of human rights.”

In 1995, Szeto Wah outlined his concerns about Hong Kong to Visual Artists Guild. 

First, he believed that the government of China will alter election laws to limit the opportunities for Democratic candidates and thus allow China to control the legislator.
Second he believed that China will limit the freedom of the press through various methods to influence Hong Kong. Third, he feared that the judiciary would be extremely difficult in maintaining independence and fairness.
Fourth, he believed that Hong Kong will be corrupted from within by bribery and corruption. 
Finally, he believed that China will restrict the activities of the people such as marches, assemblies, protests, demonstrations and actions of that nature.

Those concerns were what drove Szeto Wah to continue his struggle for Hong Kong’s freedom and kept his appearance in public up to his last days.  Last year, in February, I was in Hong Kong and saw him at the flower mart prior to Chinese New Year.  He was then undergoing chemotherapy but his first concern was for others. He told the people gathered there that he was informed that he could go to China but he declared that he would only do so if he were allowed to visit Tan Zuoren and Liu Xiaobo who were in prison.

Just like Dr. Martin Luther King, Szeto Wah had a dream.  His dream is that one day democracy will arrive in China thus guaranteeing Hong Kong’s freedom.  With the election of President Barack Obama, Dr. King’s dream has symbolically realized; I believe Szeto Wah’s dream will too be realized some day.

 Szeto Wah, as we honor you today, we pledge ourselves to be vigilant about Hong Kong’s freedoms as you have so clearly demonstrated to us.  Farewell.