Politicians have mourned the passing of social activist and veteran politician Elsie Tu, who died on Tuesday morning at the age of 102.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying expressed his profound sadness at the death of Tu.

“Dr Elsie Tu had a passion for Hong Kong for her entire life. She made tremendous contributions in taking forward reforms and developments in various aspects of society,” Leung said.

Elsie Tu. File Photo: Apple Daily.

Tu was a member of the Legislative Council, the Provisional Legislative Council, the Urban Council and others.

“She strived to uphold social justice and offered advice to the Government on various policy areas such as education, anti-corruption, housing, transport and law. She adhered to reasoning while respecting the views of the majority. Her noble character earned her wide respect from the community and she was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal in 1997,” Leung added.

He also expressed his deepest sympathies on her passing on behalf of the government.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that she knew Elsie Tu when she was still studying in university and had joined social actions led by Tu.

“I take her sense of justice and outspoken character as an example; I admire her effort in defending social justice.”

Lam added that Tu encouraged her a lot privately during the political reform process in the last two years, and that she was inspired by her every time she visited Tu.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim also expressed deep condolences and gratitude for her contribution towards education in Hong Kong.

The Independent Commission against Corruption. Photo: Apple Daily.

‘Kindred spirit in the quest for justice and fairness’

Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the death of Elsie Tu.

“The passing away of Elsie is a great loss to Hong Kong. She will be dearly missed by her friends and colleagues,” Tsang said.

“Elsie’s dedication and efforts have earned our respect. Her unwavering battle in fighting for the underprivileged and her passion for serving the community will be fondly remembered,” Tsang added.

In the 1970s, Tu started to campaign against corruption in Hong Kong. The Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) was set up in 1974 partly due to her consistent efforts.

The ICAC issued a statement saying it was profoundly sad about her death.

“Dr Tu was highly respected as a pioneer in Hong Kong’s anti-graft work. Her campaign against corruption in the early days had paved the way for the setting up of the ICAC,” the statement read. “Dr Tu will be fondly remembered by the Commission as a kindred spirit in the quest for justice and fairness.”

Martin Lee. File Photo: Apple Daily.

‘Undoubted contributions’

Former Chief Secretary David Akers-Jones told i-cable that he was “extremely sorry” to hear the news.

He said that Tu had “a very long and fruitful life” and  “she was a great person and a great friend.”

Former lawmaker and Democratic Party co-founder Martin Lee told the station that Tu had been a fighter for democracy for Hong Kong many years ago.

He added that although Tu was more conservative in her later days, throughout her life she “undoubtedly contributed a lot to Hong Kong.”

Elsie Tu. Photo: theworldmarch.org.

‘True Hong Kong spirit’

Dr Judith Mackay, a friend of Tu’s for 40 years, said Tu had not been suffering from any specific medical condition, but that her health had worsened since last year.

Mackay said Tu died of pneumonia, which is very common among elderly people.

Tu passed away very peacefully with friends alongside her, Mackay added.

Cheung Nga-lai, chairperson of the Elsie Tu Education Fund, said that Tu was a “True Hong Kong spirit” in fighting for the rights of the underprivileged.

Mu Kuang English School, which was co-founded by Tu, will arrange her funeral and memorial service.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.