Fri, Mar 01, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Newsmakers: Liu Hsia celebrates 60th birthday

GREATNESS PERSONIFIEDAs one of Taiwan's most outstanding writers and a national policy advisor to President Chen Shui-bian, Liu has beaten the odds to become a heroine for people around the country

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A British admirer presents a bouquet to national policy advisor Liu Hsia for her 60th birthday, yesterday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

After spending 48 years in a wheelchair, writer and national policy advisor Liu Hsia (劉俠), celebrated her 60th birthday yesterday.

Liu, who took the post in the Presidential Office last May, is better known by her pen name Xing Lin Tzu (杏林子).

During her birthday celebration, amongst many of her life-long friends, she called herself a "walking quadriplegic fossil," since she has been suffering from a rare disease for almost five decades.

Though enjoying a high-profile and well-paid position as a national policy advisor for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), she joked yesterday that the president had not yet needed any advice from her.

"I think it is a sign that our country is in good shape," Liu quipped.

This is vintage Liu -- permenantly ill and physically suffering -- but with a strong sense of humor and an inspirational attitude toward life.

"She never stops brainstorming," said Lin Chi-ping (林治平), a professor from the Chung Yuan Christian University (中原大學).

"I have known her for more than 30 years. While her bizarre disease may trap her, it seems to me that it never became an obstacle for her and never hindered her from writing beautiful articles and caring about people in need."

The Reverend Maurice Alwyn Sween III, an American missionary who has been residing in Taiwan for the past 15 years, said that Liu often inspires him with fresh ideas toward life.

"Reading her articles helped me calm down, think deeply and remain clear minded toward the challenges in my life," said Sween.

"She has a unique way of looking at things which causes people to see that there can always be hope if you never give up."

Liu's younger brother Liu Kan (劉侃), president of the Home of Victory (勝利之家), a foster home for mentally retarded children in Pingtung (屏東), said that his sister always cares for others even though she is suffering.

Liu has a rare disease called atrophic arthritis which is related to rheumatoid arthritis. The disease made her a quadriplegic when she was 12 years old, a condition that limited her formal education. Her schooling ended after graduation from the Peitou Elementary School (北投國小) in 1954.

The disease hinders her from being able move around physically, but not from thinking and creating. She has written more than 1,000 short stories and articles.

The malady has destroyed the functioning of nearly 90 percent of her joints and forces her to lie down most of the time and utilize a wheelchair to get around.

The disease remains incurable. She controls the worst symptoms with prescription medication.

Most of Liu's articles are inspirational. She won a National Literature and Art Award with a book in 1982. In addition, her articles have been utilized in elementary and junior high school Mandarin-language textbooks.

Liu's writing also earned her a commendation as one of Taiwan's 10 most outstanding women in 1980. Two years later, she used the award's monetary prize of NT$200,000 to establish the Eden Social Welfare Foundation (伊甸殘障福利基金會) to care for the needs of people who suffer from disabilities.

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