Justice for the People
Those are the words that renowned humanitarian Elsie Tu lived by up until her death on Dec. 8, 2015 at the age of 102.
This Englishwoman arrived in the colony of Hong Kong in 1951 as Elsie Elliot to support her husband, a missionary named Bill Elliot.
But she soon wanted to do more than just spread the word of God.
At the time, Honk Kong was administered solely by British officials and businessmen for the purpose of exploitation. Elsie came to see the Chinese as victims and grew to view colonialism as something that brought out the worst in the British.
She became dismayed at the sight of Chinese refugees escaping newly-communist China into the cramped, dilapidated huts in the slums of Kai Tak in Kowloon.
She was heartbroken by the children walking into her church on fungus-encrusted feet and with boils from malnutrition.
So, Elsie set up a hospital clinic to treat them.
She saw children with an eagerness to learn holding cheap comics on the street.
So, Elsie founded Mu Kwang Middle school in 1954.
But, she didn’t stop advocating for the needy’s rights through philanthropy. She was also very vocal at criticizing the top.
Soon, Elsie was catching the attention of the Legislative Council, the police, and top British officials.
She got her first taste of Honk Kong’s corrupted underbelly when she began buying land for buildings and exploring the Education Department. She saw triads extorting protection money from hut-dwellers across the land.
She even noticed police involvement in the narcotics trade. Elsie exposed this corruption in her reports and letters to the South China Morning.
Police eventually accused her of inciting violence among demonstrators protesting against a fare hike on the Star Ferry linking Hong Kong island and Kowloon. After she proved the, wrong, she became widely popular.
Those at the top didn’t really know what to make of her. But, Elsie eventually climbed to the ranks of the Legislative Council where she sat from 1988 to 1995.
Through protecting the needy Chinese in Hong Kong, she also found love after having left her demanding, first husband.
In 1985, she married a Chinese patriot from Inner Mongolia named Tu Hsueh-kwei. She came to call him “Andrew” after the apostle who cared for the needy. Elsie adopted “Tu” as her last name.
Together, they founded Elsie’s school and worked toward humanitarianism. Today, that school stands as a seven-storey block with 1,300 students. It started as a 30-desk army tent.
Andrew also boosted her interest in Chinese culture. Through him, she learned the philosophy and poetry of China as well as the Chinese habit of patience.
The marriage served as a contrast to her previous one, where her most important roles including serving refreshments at meetings. With Andrew, it was he who greeted her with tea after she spent a busy day at the Legislative Council.
As Hong Kong moved closer to Communist China’s control, she attacked what she called “disgraceful” reforms belatedly introduced by the British.
In 1995, she lost her seat to a “pro-Democracy” candidate.