Asia-Pacific

Hong Kong euthanasia plea man goes home

Tang Siu-pun, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, 26 August 2009
Image caption Tang Siu-pun demands the right to choose death but is starting a new life after leaving hospital

A quadriplegic man who six years ago wrote to Hong Kong's leader demanding the right to die has moved out of hospital.

His plea had sparked a debate on euthanasia in the southern Chinese territory.

Now he has been allowed to move to his own home from hospital after 19 years.

Tang Siu-pun was rehearsing for a gymnastics display in 1991 when he fell, badly injuring his spine; he became paralysed from the neck down.

In 2004, he used a chopstick in his mouth to type his appeal to Hong Kong's chief executive and legislators, letter by letter, asking for help to let him die.

'Right' to die

Assisted suicide is illegal in Hong Kong, but his appeal prompted widespread media coverage and debate.

Donations poured in to pay taxi fares for his father to visit him every day in hospital to feed him his favourite soup.

Other wheelchair-bound quadriplegic people appealed to him to value life so that he could educate others.

Tang Siu-pun later changed his mind and said he wanted to live, but he still believes that the choice to live or die is a basic human right.

While Hong Kong has advanced medical and rehabilitation facilities, Tang-Siu-pun's case highlighted the need for technology and adapted accommodation to allow him and others like him to live a quality life.

As he left hospital in a wheelchair after 19 years, Mr Tang, now 41, smiled at reporters.

He said he had faced many challenges since the accident and was happy to be going home; however, he had concerns.

"I'm worried that I will encounter some problems that I won't know how to solve," he told them. "At the hospital I don't have to worry about anything."

Mr Tang's condition has improved and he no longer relies on a mechanical ventilator to breathe.

He will have carers trained by the hospital and the government will pay the monthly rent for his public housing flat, which has been specially adapted.

More on this story