Hilton Cheong-Leen

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Hilton Cheong-Leen
Member of the Legislative Council
In office
1 May 1973 – 31 August 1979
Appointed by Sir Murray MacLehose
Preceded by H. J. C. Browne
Succeeded by Wong Po-yan
In office
1 October 1985 – 30 September 1988
Preceded by New constituency
Succeeded by Elsie Tu
Constituency Urban Council
Chairman of the Urban Council
In office
1 April 1983 – 31 March 1986
Preceded by A. de O. Sales
Succeeded by H. M. G. Forsgate
Member of the Urban Council
In office
1 April 1957 – 31 March 1991
Preceded by Woo Pak-chuen
Succeeded by San Stephen Wong
Constituency Wan Chai (1983–91)
Chairman of the Hong Kong Civic Association
In office
Preceded by Woo Pak-chuen
Succeeded by Lam Kwok-wah
Personal details
Born (1922-08-06) 6 August 1922 (age 95)
Georgetown, British Guyana (present-day Georgetown, Guyana)
Political party Hong Kong Civic Association
Spouse(s) Pauline Chow (m. 1945–79)
Nancy Gan (m. 1988)
Children Reginald Cheong-Leen
Susan Cheong-Leen
Franklin Cheong-Leen
Flora Cheong-Leen
Alma mater Central High School
La Salle College
Occupation Businessman and politician

Hilton Cheong-Leen, CBE, JP (Chinese: 張有興; born 6 August 1922) is a Hong Kong politician and businessman. He was an elected member of the Urban Council of Hong Kong for 34 years from 1957 to 1991. He was also the first Chinese chairman of the council from 1981 to 1986. He had been a long-time chairman of the Hong Kong Civic Association, one of the two quasi-opposition political groups in the post-war Urban Council. From 1973 to 1979, he was appointed unofficial member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong. From 1985 to 1988, he was again became among the first elected member of the Legislative Council through Urban Council constituency in the first Legislative Council election in 1985.

Early life and business career[edit]

Cheong-Leen was born in Georgetown, British Guyana on 6 August 1922 to a third-generation Chinese mother Elvira Cheong-Leen and father Edward Cheong-Leen who came through Hong Kong from China to join an uncle in Guyana.[1] He was educated at the Central High School in Georgetown. He moved to Hong Kong when he was around nine and went to La Salle College in Hong Kong.[2] He had worked in a law firm, an import and export company and as a banker after school.[3]

After the fall of Hong Kong, he moved to unoccupied territory in China and lived in Kunming with his family and returned to Hong Kong after the war. He was a journalist for a period of time, having been the Hong Kong correspondent of Fox News and BBC.[4] He was offered a job with the South China Morning Post but he followed his family's wish to go into commerce and set up his own import and export firm H. Cheong-Leen & Co. in 1945, importing gifts, premiums and watches.[1][5]

As a publisher, he also joined the Junior Chamber in 1953 and represented the chamber in the international conference of the Junior Chamber in San Francisco.[3] He was for many years chairman of the Hong Kong Watch Importers Association. He continues to be the honorary life president of the Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association.[6]

Early political career[edit]

At the time the Urban Council elections, the only direct elections in the colony at the time, were dominated by Brook Bernacchi's Reform Club of Hong Kong, Cheong-Leen founded the Hong Kong Civic Association in 1954 with Roger Lobo and A. de O. Sales, as well as Rev. Brigant Cassian and Dr. Woo Pak-foo.[2] Cheong-Leen was the founding secretary-general of the association and was in the first meeting at a bar on the mezzanine floor of Jimmy's Kitchen in Theatre Lane, Central.[1]

As the representative of the association, he visited London and New York and met with the Colonial Office officials and Members of Parliament of different parties including William John Peel, son of Hong Kong Governor Sir William Peel, and United Nations officials Ralph Bunche and Benjamin Victor Cohen over constitutional reform and other issues respectively in the 1950s.[3][4]

He was also vice-chairman of the United Nations Association of Hong Kong led by Ma Man-fai, whom he befriended during their lives in Kunming.[5] He represented the association in the international conference of the United Nations Association in Bangkok in 1955. As a secretary of the International Association of the Chinese Refugees, he also visited United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and New York on the refuge issues in Hong Kong.[3]

Urban Councillor[edit]

Cheong-Leen first contested on the Civic Association ticket in 1956 Urban Council election but was not elected. He ran again in the election in the following year and took the last of the four seats. He remained in the Urban Council for 34 years until he retired in 1991.[1] He took over as the Civic Association chairman in 1968 and had held the position for many years until 2004. The Civic Association at the time positioned itself as more pro-middle-class and moderate as compared to the Reform Club.

Cheong-Leen contested the chairmanship of the Urban Council in 1973 when the post was elected by the council for the first time. He lost to A. de O. Sales but was elected vice-chairman. He went on becoming the first Chinese chairman of the council in 1981 after defeating Denny Huang when A. de. O. Sales stepped down. He held the position until 1986.

He had also many other public positions including the chairman of the Hong Kong Girl Guides Island Regional Association, deputy chairman of the council of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, member of the Fight Crime Committee, board of governors of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society and the Hong Kong Academy of Ballet. He was also member of the Wan Chai District Board as an ex officio member. For his public services, he was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1984.[7]

After 34 years of service, Cheong-Leen stepped down as the second longest-serving elected officeholder in Hong Kong history, behind Brook Bernacchi's 41 years, after he decided not to seek for re-election of the Urban Council in 1991.[8]

Legislative Councillor[edit]

He was first appointed as an unofficial member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong on 1 May 1973 by Governor Sir Murray MacLehose with Guy Sayer to fill the vacancies left by retired H. J. C. Browne and deceased Mary Wong Wing-cheung.[9] In his first term in the council, he made a major speech advocating nine years of free compulsory education and followed up all the way to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which made it eventually realised.[1] He retired from the Legislative Council on 31 August 1979 along with James Wu Man-hon after six years of service and were succeeded by Hu Fa-kuang and Wong Po-yan.

In the 1980s, the colonial government carried out the constitutional reform as the Sino-British Joint Declaration was finalised. The first indirect election was introduced in 1985 when 24 seats of the Legislative Council were elected by electoral colleges and functional constituencies. Cheong-Leen defeated Elsie Tu in the Urban Council electoral college which composed of all members of the Urban Council and became member of the Legislative Council for the second time. He held the position until 1988.


Hilton Cheong-Leen's first wife, Pauline Chow, was a soprano singer known as "the nightingale of China". Pauline was born in Peking and was educated at the Bridgman Academy and National Peking University. The couple met in Guilin and Hilton was even fancied becoming a base baritone because of her. They married in 1945 until her death in 1979. The couple had two sons and two daughters, Reginald (born in 1951), Susan (born in 1953), Franklin (born in 1958) and Flora (born in 1959).[1] Their fourth child, Flora Cheong-Leen is a famous ballerina and designer who was married to actor Russell Wong.

He married his second wife, Nancy Gan Wan Geok, in 1988 but later divorced.[8] Gan was a classical pianist and porcelain painter educated at Trinity College London and had held exhibitions of her porcelain paintings in Hong Kong from 1988 to 1992. Gan was found dead in the swimming pool of her bungalow in Singapore on 19 March 2014. Dewi Suko Wati, her Indonesian helper from Central Java, was charged with murder.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Cheong-leen, Hilton (28 July 2003). "Hilton Cheong-leen". South China Morning Post. 
  2. ^ a b Faure, David (2003). Colonialism and the Hong Kong Mentality, Issue 150. Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong. p. 51. 
  3. ^ a b c d "公民協會宣布推出五人競選". Wah Kiu Yat Po. 26 January 1956. p. 5. 
  4. ^ a b "市政局議員競選人訪問之二張有興談憲政改革". Wah Kiu Yat Po. 21 February 1956. p. 6. 
  5. ^ a b Asia Who's Who. 1958. p. 143. 
  6. ^ "H Cheong-Leen & Co (HK) Ltd". Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. 
  7. ^ "No. 49768". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 1984. p. 16. 
  8. ^ a b "本港有史以來任期最長民選議員張有興放棄參選市局話別卅四載議員生涯". Wah Kiu Yat Po. 20 March 1991. p. 5. 
  9. ^ "張有興沙雅二人出任立法局議員". Wah Kiu Yat Po. 26 April 1973. p. 13. 
  10. ^ Lee, Ada (21 March 2014). "Indonesian helper charged with killing Hong Kong-born socialite in Singapore". South China Morning Post. 
  11. ^ Jo, Yeo Sam (20 March 2014). "Socialite's body found in swimming pool; maid held". The Straits Times. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Woo Pak-chuen
Member of the Urban Council
Succeeded by
San Stephen Wong
Preceded by
Arnaldo de Oliveira Sales
Chairman of the Urban Council
Succeeded by
Hugh Moss Gerald Forsgate
Party political offices
Preceded by
Woo Pak-foo
Chairman of the Hong Kong Civic Association
Succeeded by
Lam Kwok-wah
Legislative Council of Hong Kong
Preceded by
Herbert John Charles Browne
Unofficial Member
Succeeded by
Wong Po-yan
New constituency Member of Legislative Council of Hong Kong
Representative for Urban Council
Succeeded by
Elsie Tu