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Chinese mourn HK quake charity worker

Updated: 2010-04-18 14:50
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XINING -- All his friends knew Wong Fuk-wing was a charitable person. But when he said it would be a blessing to die for charity, few believed it would actually be his destiny.

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Sunday, a casket with the body of the 46-year-old truck driver lies in a memorial hall near Xining, the capital of western Qinghai Province.

Wong died in the aftershocks of the devastating earthquake that flattened a mountainous town in Qinghai on Wednesday.

He was crushed under collapsed houses after pushing four people, including three orphans, out of danger to safer ground.

Clad in black and holding white flowers, people stream into the memorial hall to pay their last respects to the fallen hero. Many are strangers who only learned of Wong's story from media. They stop at Wong's casket to lay chrysanthemums.

On the muddy road leading to the memorial hall, young students hold paper banners printed with the Chinese characters of Wong's nickname, "Ah Fuk" and "Love without boundary."

"We have come to see Wong off. We are moved by what he did and we are proud of him," says a volunteer named Wang Biaojie.

"He was a selfless person," says the vice president of Ci Xing Xi Yuan Hui orphanage, where Wong worked.

"He managed to stay safe when the earthquake first struck. But when he saw three kids were trapped in the rubble, he returned. Then, the aftershock struck," says an official who only gave his name as Ah Chou.

Wong is among the at least 1,484 people who were killed in the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu early Wednesday. More than 12,000 were injured, with 1,394 of those in a serious condition, according to the latest official tally.

Many others are believed trapped under the rubble ruins as 85 percent of the houses in Gyegu Town, mostly made of mud bricks and wood, collapsed.

Wong was an ordinary truck driver in Hong Kong. With a monthly salary averaging just 10,000 Hong Kong dollars, and he could hardly live well-off in Hong Kong. But he chose charity.

Wong spent a three-month vacation every year working for charity.

In 2002, he participated in a charity walk from Hong Kong to Beijing to raise funds for the China Marrow Foundation. In 2008 he threw himself into the reconstruction of Sichuan Province after a 8.0-magnitude earthquake killed 70,000 people there.

Zhao Lin, Wong's friend at the orphanage, says Wong had come to the impoverished plateau to do charity work several times before.

Zhao once asked Wong about the dangers of altitude sickness.

Wong replied, "If I die while doing charity, it will be a blessing."

"If he hadn't died, he would still be helping others right now, " Zhao says.

Wong's body is expected to be flown to his family in Hong Kong later Sunday.