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The ancestral home of the Lee family was Xinhui, Guangdong, and his father, Lee Leung Yik (利良奕) was heavily involved in the opium business in Hong Kong and China. Lee Hysan was born in China and as a young boy lived in San Francisco when his father moved there. At age seventeen, he returned to Hong Kong and continued his studies at Queen's College. Because he spoke English fluently, he later taught English at Queen's College, his alma mater.
His father achieved great wealth from the opium trade, and Hysan inherited his business. However, he also actively participated in the fast-growing Hong Kong real estate market. In 1923, he bought the Jardine's Hill property, west of Causeway Bay from Jardines for HK$3.8 million, and developed the property as Lee Garden. It is approximately the area around Lee Garden Road, Lee Theatre, Yun Ping Road and Percival Street.
On 30 April 1928 Lee was assassinated due to a growing public resentment of his opium business, which people believed had caused great harm to the Chinese society. At the time of his death, his estate was valued at HK$4.4 million; the present-day Hysan Development Company has a market capitalization in excess of HK$20 billion.
Landmarks named after Lee Hysan
Notable family members
Many of Lee's descendants and other family members are notable in their own right:
- Richard Charles Lee (利銘澤) (1905-1983) - father of Vivienne Poy and son of Lee Hysan
- Vivienne Poy née Lee (利德蕙) - daughter of Richard Charles Lee and a Canadian Senator from 1998 to 2012
- Harold Hsiao-Wo Lee (利孝和)
- Lee Quo-wei (利國偉) - banker and educator, nephew of Lee Hysan
- Peter Ting Chang Lee JP (deceased) - Chairman of Hysan Development Company Limited
- Michael Tze Hau Lee BA, MBA - Managing Director, Hysan Development Company Limited
- Anthony Hsien Pin Lee BA, MBA - non-managing director, Hysan Development Company Limited
- Chien Lee - non-executive director, Hysan Development Company Limited
- Dr. Deanna Ruth Tak Yung Rudgard BA, MD - non-executive director, Hysan Development Company Limited
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