HK's visually impaired soprano honoured in “Touching China” award

Editor︰Ivy Cin

"If she could see for three days. Firstly, she would look at her parents closely; on the second day, she would climb the mountain to overlook Victoria Harbour from sunset to sunrise; and on the third day, she would go further to visit the heroes she has sung about and the beautiful scenery."

On the evening of April 8, Michelle Siu from Hong Kong became one of the role models honoured at the "Touching China 2023 Characters of the Year" award ceremony held by China Central Television.

Life without sight due to eye cancer

Michelle Siu, who is part of the "post-90s" generation, had her eyes removed due to eye cancer when she was just 3 months old.

Encouraged and loved by her parents, she developed an optimistic personality, treating tough problems as if they were light.

"It's funny, I thought everyone was like me when I was young; I thought everyone had to clean their (artificial) eyes," said Michelle.

"It wasn't until I started primary school that I realised other people's eyes were real. They could see and didn't need someone to lead them when walking."

Showing musical talent from a young age, Michelle Siu started playing the piano at 3 or 4 years old and began singing when she was 10.

Initially, many piano teachers didn't believe she could learn, but Michelle learned to play the piano bit by bit through feeling the Braille sheet music and repeatedly memorising recordings.

"Other people would just look at the sheet music with their eyes open, but I had to play the song while touching the braille sheets. I had to commit it all to memory while also listening, a feat of multitasking."

When learning to sing, she also had to memorise the melody first and familiarise herself with the lyrics through a thousand times of repetitions.

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Michelle Siu had her eyes removed when she was just 3 months old, but her physical impairment didn't stop her from pursuing dream. (Web Image)

Read more: The first Asian man to summit Everest

 "My visual impairment makes me more focused"

Some may perceive Michelle Siu's learning process as a struggle, but she sees it as perfectly natural.

"When people ask me about the challenges I've encountered along my musical journey, honestly I would say I haven't had any. Challenges only become challenges when you see them as difficulties," said Michelle.

"In fact, there's nothing difficult for the determined. Music mainly relies on the ear, and although I may take more time than others, I never find it painful. I even think visually impaired people have an advantage, which is being more focused and free of distractions when practicing."

By secondary school, Michelle Siu had already discovered her life's direction and hoped to make music her lifelong profession.

In 2016, she was admitted to the music department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and successfully became the first visually impaired graduate from the department a few years later.

She believes that though she is blind, she is no different from other people with special needs. They all have their strengths: "Our ability is greater than our disability. Never let the disability cover our abilities. This kind of mentality is very important."

Read more: How does a deaf girl pass the entry exam to Tsinghua University's by lip-reading?

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Michelle Siu once said, "Music is my second life, and I taste all the sweetness and bitterness patiently." (Web Image)

“Music became my second life”

Throughout her journey, music has become Michelle Siu's second life, from which she has tasted the sweet, the sour, the bitter, and the spicy of life.

She has participated in numerous public competitions, won many honours, including the Hong Kong Champion of "China's Got Talent", among Hong Kong's Ten Outstanding Young Persons.

She has also devoted herself to public and charitable work, and has been honoured with the Outstanding Volunteer Award and the Hong Kong Red Cross Humanitarian Award.

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Michelle Siu actively involves herself in charitable work. (Web Image)

When she was five, she once asked her dad, "Am I useless because I can't see?"

Now after more than 20 years, Michelle Siu has found her answer: "Everyone is born with a purpose!"

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