Outspoken businessman Tsang Hin-chi, former Hong Kong representative on China’s top legislative body, dies at age 85

Gary Cheung

Tsang Hin-chi, a prominent pro-Beijing businessman and a former Hong Kong representative on China’s top legislative body, died on Friday. He was 85.

He died of illness in his hometown Meizhou city in Guangdong province at 4.28pm, Goldlion Holdings, a company he founded in 1971, said in an announcement.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, said she was saddened by the news and extended her deepest condolences to Tsang’s family. Lam said he was a successful entrepreneur who fully supported mainland China’s reform and opening up.

Lo Man-tuen, a former member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Standing Committee and who worked with Tsang in the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in the 1980s, said his heart was heavy after hearing the news from the businessman’s son.

Tsang Hin-chi attends an event in 2012 in Central. Photo: David Wong

“He loved his country and Hong Kong, and contributed a lot,” Lo said, referring to Tsang’s donations for education, sports development and China’s space exploration.

Lo said he was moved by Tsang’s enthusiasm when he showed up at all the events in the city to welcome Yang Liwei, the first Chinese astronaut in space, in 2003.

He said Tsang’s remark that “if there was no Communist Party, there’d be no new China,” which was taken from a popular propaganda song in the 1940s, had left an impression on him and he had learned a lot from him during his time in the chamber.

When Tsang dropped out of school in his hometown Meixian, now part of Meizhou city, because he could not afford the tuition fees, he could hardly imagine he would become the “King of ties” and be commended by Beijing.

Tsang was one of five people from Hong Kong and Macau endorsed for their outstanding contributions to the country’s reform and opening up since 1978. The list of 100 people from across the country was published by party mouthpiece People’s Daily last November. But he did not attend the commendation ceremony in Beijing last December.

Tsang with Xinhua director Zhou Nan at a memorial service for Deng Xiaoping in Hong Kong in 1997. Photo: Dickson Lee

Born to a family of peasants in Meixian in 1934, Tsang led a miserable childhood. His father died when he was a boy and he had to cut firewood and look after cows to feed the family. He could only continue his studies with support from the government.

He graduated from Zhongshan University in Guangzhou in 1961 and moved to Hong Kong in 1968. He started a family workshop making men’s ties and peddled his products on the streets. In 1971, Tsang founded Goldlion, which subsequently extended its production lines to include leather goods and accessories for men. His company was listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 1992.

He said in an interview with the Post in 2003 that “my suit, my tie, my leather belt and my shoes … all are Goldlion”. In 2005, Tsang said bow ties worn by then Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen were made by his group. “I know he likes bow ties. So I made bow ties in various colours for him to choose,” Tsang Hin-chi said.

The tycoon started investing on the mainland in 1986 and had donated more than HK$1.2 billion (US$153,000) since the late 1970s to support education, sports and scientific developments there. In 1992, he donated HK$100 million (US$12.7 million) to the Ministry of Education for the establishment of the Tsang Hin-chi Education Foundation to help students in poverty-stricken areas.

In 2003, he donated HK$100 million to establish the Tsang Hin-chi Manned Aerospace Foundation to reward experts and astronauts who contributed to the country’s aerospace science and technology.

Guests including Tsang (seated) attend the opening ceremony of photo exhibition “Chinese Love China Dream” to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the handover in 2013. Photo:

He stepped into politics in the early 1990s and was elected a member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in 1994. Two years later, he was appointed a member of the Preparatory Committee overseeing Hong Kong’s handover.

Tsang was known for his unequivocal pro-Beijing stance and was no stranger to controversy.

In February 2004, he called three veteran Democratic Party lawmakers “unpatriotic” for actions such as opposing the proposed national security legislation. Tsang added that it was “definitely not” proper to introduce universal suffrage by 2007.

He made his controversial remarks amid the debate on constitutional reform, when mainland officials recapped the words of late patriarch Deng Xiaoping, saying: “Hong Kong should be governed by Hong Kong people, with patriots as the main body.”

During an interview with RTHK in April 2007, Tsang broke into song, giving a rendition of “If there were no Communist Party, there’d be no new China”.

Tsang Hin-chi founded Goldlion in 1971, starting with a family workshop. Photo: SCMP

Tsang said a month later that his remarks had often drawn criticism but this had never deterred him because he always spoke the truth. He decided not to seek re-election as a member of the NPC Standing Committee and was succeeded by Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai in 2008.

Tsang was on the list of 120 torch-bearers for the Hong Kong leg of the Olympic torch relay in May 2008. He completed the journey in a wheelchair.

While he was never shy about showing his patriotism, he was found in 1995 to be hiding past criminal convictions. Goldlion, apparently reacting to media speculation, informed the stock exchange that year that Tsang had neglected to disclose a criminal conviction in 1971 when the company listed.

He was fined HK$25,000 (US$3,200) in 1971 for possessing goods with false trade descriptions. He was publicly censured by the stock exchange in May 1995.

Additional reporting by Danny Mok

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