Hong Kong people, including hundreds of volunteers, streamed into a downtown funeral house on Thursday to pay their last respects to the city's fallen hero, Wong Fuk-wing, a former volunteer who lost his life saving others in the April 14 earthquake in northwest China's Qinghai province.
HK people pay last tribute to earthquake hero
"I will remember him for all the rest of my life," said nine- year-old Bai Ji, who was among one of those saved by Wong.
A three-hour public memorial service began at 4 p.m. local time at a memorial hall of the Universal Funeral Parlor in Kowloon. Among thousands of mourners, four children from the orphanage where Wong worked as a volunteer came here to pay farewell to Wong, also known as Ah Fuk.
Wong, a 46-year-old truck driver who had survived the 7.1- magnitude quake in Yushu last month, died in a powerful aftershock as he returned to rescue the trapped people at the orphanage. He rescued four people before being hit -- three orphans and a teacher.
A Zhou, a fellow social worker with Wong from the orphanage, burst into tears when he stepped into the memorial hall.
All that Wong cared about in his last minutes was the safety of orphans, said A Zhou.
"We will bend over backward to take care of the orphans, which is also Ah Fuk's wish," the young man told Xinhua.
Dozens of boys and girls from Delia Memorial School also came to say goodby to their alumni Wong.
"He was a very ordinary person, but his deeds are heroic, and inspired us all," said Anita. "He has sent a big message to all of us -- no matter what you do, and where you are from, you should not lose touch with humanity."
With a simple ceremony on Thursday, Wong's family called on local people to donate to Yushu or the newly-launched "Wong Fuk- wing Memorial Fund" under Hong Kong Red Cross for relief and reconstruction, rather than buy wreaths or funeral scrolls.
"Ah Fuk's deeds embody the spirit of humanity of all Hong Kong volunteers, and I believe there are many Ah Fuks in Hong Kong who contribute great much quietly," said Chen Chuhua, a local social worker and a long-time volunteer.
Chen did not buy Wong a wreath but donated to "Wong Fuk-wing Memorial Fund" instead to help more people in need as Wong's family hoped.
People voiced their great admiration for Wong, many with tears in their eyes.
"He could hardly live a well-off life as a truck driver in such an expensive city as Hong Kong, but he devoted himself to saving and helping others in the Chinese mainland," said Zhao, a Hong Kongese. "I think he is a great man."
"Ah Fuk has practised the spirit of volunteers, and I missed him very much," said Gao Yonghua, a volunteer from the red cross of southeast China's Fujian province, who joined Wong on a charity walk from Hong Kong to Beijing in 2002.
Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu, State Councilor Liu Yandong, Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council Liao Hui and the Qinghai provincial government presented wreaths to him.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's Chief Executive Donald Tsang, some other officials of the HKSAR government, senior officials of the Liaison Office of the Central Government and representatives from the Qinghai provincial government attended the memorial service.
Tsang has spoken highly of wong's selfless and heroic deeds, dubbing him "a good example for all Hong Kong people" in one of his recent blogs.
Chief Secretary Hengry Tang also said earlier that Wong's selfless sacrifice reflected the spirit of Hong Kong and deserved the highest respect.
In 2002, it took Wong seven months to complete a walk from Hong Kong to Beijing to raise funds for the Chinese Marrow Donor Program, to which he had donated all his savings.
Following the 8.0-magnitude earthquake that hit southwestern China's Sichuan province in May 2008, Wong hurried to the quake-stricken areas and worked as a volunteer for two months.
Since the beginning of last month, Wong had been serving in an orphanage in Yushu, Qinghai before the deadly earthquake, which had killed over 2,000 people and injured more than 12,000 others.
Wong Fuk-wing, who had been unknown to most Hong Kong people, let alone people in Chinese mainland, has become a household name now as media outlets in Hong Kong and the mainland dedicated much coverage to him.
Draped with HKSAR flag, Wong's coffin was flied back to Hong Kong on April 18.
His family joined a private memorial service Thursday evening. The fallen hero will be laid to rest on Friday morning.