Hong Kong democracy icon Szeto Wah dies at 79
Known as Uncle Wah, the veteran activist had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
Hong Kong: One of Hong Kong`s most influential democracy campaigners, Szeto Wah, has died at 79.
Known by many in Hong Kong as Uncle Wah, the veteran activist had been in hospital for several months after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Recent media reports had suggested his condition was deteriorating rapidly, and Cable News said that he died on Sunday morning.
In a statement on Sunday, Hong Kong`s chief executive Donald Tsang said he was "deeply saddened" at the death of the outspoken campaigner.
"Passionate about China and Hong Kong, Mr Szeto Wah was devoted in promoting democracy. Upright, industrious and unwavering in the pursuit of his ideals, Mr Szeto earned great respect from across the community," he said.
"He will be dearly missed," Tsang added.
Szeto was re-elected in November as chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which routinely criticised Beijing for human-rights abuses and pushed for political reforms in the former British colony.
An Alliance spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
The group was founded less than a month before the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 which saw Chinese troops crush weeks of pro-democracy protests in Beijing, killing hundreds if not thousands of demonstrators.
Szeto formed the Professional Teachers Union in 1973 and was a long-time legislator and key member of the city`s Democratic Party.
Time Magazine once named him one of the 25 most influential people in Hong Kong, calling him "democracy`s foot soldier".
In April, a wheel-chair bound Szeto joined a rally in Hong Kong`s glittering financial district against what was described as "political persecution" following the arrest of several Alliance members during an earlier protest.
Hong Kong, which was returned to China in 1997, maintains a semi-autonomous status and guarantees civil liberties not seen on the Chinese mainland, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.
Hong Kong`s political system consists of directly elected legislators and Beijing-appointed representatives, sparking regular calls for full democracy in the city of seven million.