HONG KONG—Tucked away in a park here, near a spiraling observation tower and an aviary teeming with exotic birds, is a monument of thin white pillars, metal and glass. Beneath the memorial’s canopy, eight bronze busts sit on square concrete podiums. The faces, forward looking, gazes fixed and lips drawn in the slightest of smiles, are those of medical workers who died battling the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The illness, which first appeared in Hong Kong in February 2003, would spread to some 1,700 people in the city and kill 299, including the nurses, doctors, and hospital workers whose lives have been commemorated at the park.
One of the busts is of Tse Yuen-man, a doctor who volunteered to treat patients who had fallen ill with the disease. By April, Tse was herself sick. She died the next month, aged 35, becoming the first public-hospital doctor to die of SARS. Tse was buried in Gallant Garden, a cemetery for members of the civil service, alongside police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty. On top of that rare honor, she was awarded Hong Kong’s Gold Medal for Bravery. The citation reads like the retelling of a soldier’s actions in battle: “By voluntarily putting her own life in extreme danger in order to save others, Dr Tse displayed noble gallantry of the highest order in carrying out her last duties.” The monument opened two years after her death. On a recent visit, office workers on their lunch break chatted through face masks, and green signs hung in the park, carrying the government’s slogan for countering the new pandemic, “Together, We Fight the Virus!”