HONG KONG ADOPTEES NETWORK: INTERNATIONAL REUNION 10TH ANNIVERSARY
Date: Saturday 5th December 2020
Q & A Interview with Winnie
1. When and how did you first get involved with helping members of our group search for birth relatives?
It is a long story how I started to get involved with helping people to search for birth families.
To make it short, I started when I first met Mei Yan in 1999 through our common American friend Dianne Walker, who was in Hong Kong in the 1970s-80s.
Mei Yan told me that she was adopted to America through Fanling Babies Home. Since 1999 then we had become good friends, Mei Yan had come back to Hong Kong to see me almost every two years and so.
In 2006, Mei Yan came back to Hong Kong with her sister Sau Chan and Kim Rogers. Then I started become friends with Sau Chan and Kim Rogers.
In 2010, Mei Yan came back to Hong Kong to have the first Hong Kong Reunion with about 50 adoptees from America, UK, Canada, Australia… It was the first time I met so many adoptees, so I wanted to help them to get their HKID cards and went to Hong Kong Immigration Department with about a dozen adoptees.
However, Hong Kong Immigration Department did not know how to handle these cases at that time.
Then I decided to help Mei Yan to search for her birth family with the help of the most popular local newspaper Apple Daily to publish the stories of Mei Yan and Debbie Cook at the same time. Even though we could not find Mei Yan or Debbie’s birth family at that time, at least we had started our first step to search. Therefore, I would say it was how I started to help people to search for birth families.
Anyway, I got the contacts of two people after the publish of Apple Daily that they wanted to search for their long-lost sisters.
In 2014, before the second Hong Kong Reunion 2015 in Hong Kong, Mandy Horst emailed me to ask me to help her to search for her birth mother.
Mandy showed me all her adoption documents which were very useful because she got all the information about her birth family background, and her birth mother’s full name and address on her Hong Kong Birth Certificate. Then I started to use Internet to search for Mandy’s birth mother because I learned that Mandy’s case was different from other adoptees’ cases. Mandy was the first successful case by using social media, YouTube and Facebook. After Mandy’s successful case, I realized that Internet was a good way for searching, so I started my Website www.look4mama.com
In fact, I had also arranged Apple Daily to help to write the feature of Mandy too. Therefore, after the publish of Apple Daily, I received so many people from Hong Kong asking me to help to search for birth families. Since 2014, I have been receiving so many new cases from Hong Kong.
The second Hong Kong Reunion in 2015, then I arranged more media such as Hong Kong TVB, RTHK, Apple Daily, and the Next Magazine to help more adoptees to publicise the searching for birth families.
There was one successful case of American adoptee Kathy Wong who found her birth family with the help of HK-TVB in 2015.
Since then, I have also become so busy helping Hong Kong adoptees adopted to Hong Kong families. Every time I helped them using media, newspaper to feature their stories, then I received more and more people asking me to help to search for their birth families.
Now even Hong Kong Red Cross introduces me all the impossible cases for those people who do not have any information of their birth families. Hong Kong Red Cross only accepts cases that people have all the information, such as the full names of their birth parents they are looking for. For most adoptees who do not even know the names of their birth parents, then HK Red cross would tell them to come to ask me to help them. I just try all my ways to help them. Sometimes, I go to site visits to search for clues.
2. What motivated you to help so many of us, and how many overseas HK adoptees have approached you for help?
I feel so happy for the adoptees who can find their birth families. I feel so satisfied to help them. I can share the feelings with the adoptees. In fact, those adoptees who found their birth families and also treat me as their birth family member.
I have also set up a support group for those adoptees who cannot find their birth mothers, then they all treat me as their mother. So suddenly, I become the mother of so many adult children. Some of them are even older than me, they still call me Mum.
The number of people I have helped including both HK and overseas is about a hundred. Successful cases are about 20.
3. From your experience of searching for birth relatives, can you tell us the main things that contribute to successful outcomes, and what would you say are the main difficulties?
The main things that contribute to successful outcomes are the original Hong Kong Birth Certificate which shows the full names of the birth parents and their addresses.
Nowadays, Hong Kong Government is getting tougher than ever before about the privacy of the birth parents. That means even the adoptees who were officially adopted with full adoption documents and records, the adoptees are not even allowed to know their parents’ full names. The adoptees are not even allowed to have their own original HK Birth Certificates. Then it makes it impossible to search for any further.
4. One of the highlights of the 2015 HK Reunion was a visit to Fanling, and an incredible surprise meeting you arranged between us and a group of older women who had been at Fanling, but who had not been adopted – we affectionately refer to them as our HK sisters. How did you persuade them to meet us and did you have any concerns?
In fact, I should give credits to Ms Tsui and her husband Mr Au, who arranged the HK sisters to meet you all at Fanling. Before you all came back to the reunion 2015, I went out to research on the site of Fanling Babies Home used to be. Then I discovered a small old house which was deserted nearby the old site of Fanling Babies Home. I found an advertising sign of the property agency which was handling the renting of the house. Therefore, I called up the property agency and asked for the contact of the landlord. I explained to the salesperson that I was wondering whether it was part of the old Fanling Babies Home and told her the whole story about Fanling Babies Home. The saleslady was very touch by the story, so she helped me to contact the landlord. Then the landlord called me and told me to contact his auntie Ms Tsui. Then I realised that Ms Tsui’s mother used to be the teacher in Fanling Babies Home, and her family used to live in another big house opposite of the back of Fanling Babies Home.
Ms Tsui told me behind Fanling Babies Home there were several houses belonged to her grandfather who gave these houses to his several sons. The deserted small house was the only one left there without demolished.
All other houses and Fanling Babies Home had been demolished and rebuilt industrial buildings in that area, which was called On Lok Village (it means Safe and Happy village in Chinese).
Ms Tsui’s husband, Mr Au used to live in Children’s Garden in Ma On Shan when he was young. Therefore, he knows the people from Children’s Garden, which was the place for the children who were from 8 years to 18 years. That means some people lived in Children’s Garden were from Fanling Babies Home.
So I asked Mr Au to arrange the people (as many as possible) from Children’s Garden to meet you guys at his Fanling church. I secretly arranged the meeting for you all because I did not actually know how many people would turn up. I just worried that not many people would turn up.
5. Has your work with overseas HK adoptees and your website Look4Mama meant you have more HK people (adoptees & birth families) come forward to find their lost relatives?
Yes, my Website www.look4mama.com is target at the birth families, hopefully to reach out more birth families in Hong Kong. Therefore, it is written in Chinese only. So please be careful of using the Google translation, sometimes it doesn’t work on the translation from Chinese to English. For example, in Chinese we don’t have a different word for “he’ or “she”. Also the spelling of names from Chinese to English can also be different, because there is not a phonic system for the spelling of Chinese name in Hong Kong.
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