Former Hong Kong pro-establishment lawmaker Philip Wong Yu-hong has died in the United States at the age of 82 after a six-month battle with brain cancer.
Wong, who also served as a delegate to the National People’s Congress (NPC), became a lightning rod for controversy in 2003 after making a vulgar gesture towards thousands of protesters who had gathered outside the Legislative Council to oppose a national security bill that was ultimately withdrawn.
Leung Fung-yee, Wong’s wife, informed her friends and relatives in a message seen by the Post that her husband had passed away in hospital on Sunday night, saying he had “opened his eyes and looked at her” just hours before he died.
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“[My husband] had been diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago, but had since recovered. It was earlier this year that we discovered the cancer cells had spread to his brain,” his wife wrote, adding that Wong had been in a coma for more than two months.
“He had been unconscious, but we had not given up on treatment. We just hoped he could wake up so that I could share some happy news with him … I just feel extremely saddened [by his death], and I need some more time to calm down before I can arrange his funeral.”
An obituary posted online showed that Wong passed away on June 6 and that a memorial was to be held at AL Moore-Grimshaw Mortuaries Bethany Chapel in Phoenix, Arizona.
Wong, formerly a vice-chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and a recipient of the Gold Bauhinia Star, was returned uncontested to the city’s legislature from 1991 to 2012 via the (Commercial Second) constituency.
Wong courted controversy in July 2003 when he was seen grinning and raising the middle finger of his right hand through the window of a government minibus as it took him through a crowd of more than 50,000 residents who gathered to protest against the proposed national security legislation.
I hope people will not only remember his ‘middle finger’, as he was just angry at the time and apologised afterwards
Tam Yiu-chung, delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee
While Wong apologised the following day, his gesture raised a public outcry and saw more than 250 complaints filed to the Broadcasting Authority. Legco’s complaints and public information divisions, meanwhile, received 434 complaints.
Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to the NPC Standing Committee, hoped people could remember the good side of Wong rather than a single incident.
“Wong was a very generous man, and he often treated friends and politicians to meals. His legislative work earned the respect of many lawmakers,” he told the Post.
“I hope people will not only remember his ‘middle finger’, as he was just angry at the time and apologised afterwards.”
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Wednesday expressed “deep sorrow” over Wong’s passing, saying he had actively taken part in public and community service for a long period of time.
“In his various public service roles, he served as an effective communication link between the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong and the government with distinguished performance,” Lam said in a statement, adding his participation in the NPC had also contributed to the country’s development.
“On behalf of the HKSAR government, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to his family.”
Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen described Wong as like a big brother and said he was missing him.
Leung added it was his understanding that Wong’s body would be cremated in the US, with a memorial service in Hong Kong being delayed until later this year or in 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Married twice, Wong is survived by his wife and three sons.