Hong Kong: A happy reunion after 52 years of separation

03-06-2014 Feature

Wong Ting Lan reunited with her biological mother Ng Yee on the eve of Hong Kong’s Mid-Autumn Festival. The reunion, arranged by the Hong Kong Red Cross Tracing Service, was filled with mixed emotions as mother and daughter embraced each other for the first time in more than half a century.

Family links restored after 52 years. Back row (from left to right): Ting Lan’s eldest sister, Ting Lan’s husband, Wong Ting Lan, Ng Yee, Ting Lan’s younger brother and Ting Lan’s sister-in-law. Front row (from left to right): The Tracing Service’s staff and a volunteer.© Hong Kong Red Cross

Ng Yee and her family were leading a very hard life when Ting Lan was born in 1961. They already had a daughter and could not afford to raise another child, so Ting Lan went to live with a better-off, kind-hearted woman named Luk as her foster daughter. Feeling that Luk would treat her child well, Ng Yee reluctantly agreed not to disclose her relationship with Ting Lan.

When Ting Lan was six months’ old, Ng Yee saw her again. Thereafter, though filled with guilt and with Ting Lan constantly in her thoughts, to keep her promise Ng Yee made no attempt to look for her little daughter. All she could do was pray that Ting Lan would have a happy life, with the hope that one day they would be reunited.

A secret discovery

Ting Lan knew nothing about the adoption until she was 11 when she accidentally found in Luk’s drawer a birth certificate showing her date of birth but bearing a name different from hers. Also, the parent names were not those of Luk and her husband, indicating that they were not her biological parents. She quietly wrote down the names that she saw on the birth certificate and kept this secret to herself. Luk had treated Ting Lan as her own child, so Ting Lan did not want to do anything that might hurt their relationship.

It was not until Luk passed away in 2005 that Ting Lan revealed her secret, telling her husband and daughter how much she missed her birth family. However, there seemed no way of tracing her parents as she had no information about them other than their names. In 2013, she learned about the Hong Kong Red Cross Tracing Service, and in July, encouraged by her husband, she registered with the service.

A difficult decision

Ting Lan admitted it was not an easy decision. She hoped that her biological parents were alive and well and that she could reunite with them. If her hopes came to nothing, she might not be able to cope with the disappointment. Yet with the reassurance of her husband, these struggles were overcome. Her husband said, “Life is so short. You may feel regret if you don’t look for them. Whether successful or not, you should give it a try.”

The Wong’s family are sharing with each other the photos of Ting Lan’s childhood. (From left to right) Wong Ting Lan, Ting Lan’s mother, Ting Lan’s eldest sister and younger brother 

The Wong’s family are sharing with each other the photos of Ting Lan’s childhood. (From left to right) Wong Ting Lan, Ting Lan’s mother, Ting Lan’s eldest sister and younger brother
© Hong Kong Red Cross

The Mid-Autumn Festival is traditionally an occasion for reunions among friends and relatives. As the festival was approaching, Ting Lan took the chance to give it a try. She gathered her courage to tell her story in a press interview arranged by the staff of the Tracing Service. Amazingly, immediately after the interview was published, Ng Yee’s daughter-in-law read the story and saw Ting Lan’s photo. Having verified the details with the Tracing Service, she passed the message to Ng Yee and then contacted the Tracing Service to express Ng Yee’s wish to meet Ting Lan.

Ting Lan was in great excitement on hearing the good news, which sounded like a miracle. Accompanied by her husband, and in tears of joy, she met her mother, elder sister, younger brother and sister-in-law on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

To Ting Lan, the reunion was a dream come true. And for Ng Yee there were no regrets after a separation from Ting Lan of more than 50 years.