Lee Hysan

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Lee Hysan
Native name Chinese: 利希慎; pinyin: Lì Xīshèn
Born 1879 (1879)
Died 30 April 1928(1928-04-30) (aged 48–49)
British Hong Kong
Cause of death Assassination
Other names King of Opium
Children Richard Charles Lee (son)
Jung Kong Lee (son)
Yik Leung Lee (son)
  • Lee Leung Yik Chinese: 利良奕 (father)

Lee Hysan (1879 - April 30, 1928) was a Chinese businessman who was involved in the opium trade and refinery, as well as land development in British Hong Kong during the early 1900s. He was nicknamed the "King of Opium" in Hong Kong and Macau.

Early life[edit]

Lee was born in Hawaii.[1] Lee's father was Lee Leung Yik (Chinese: 利良奕), a businessman who was heavily involved in the opium business in Hong Kong and China. Lee's ancestral home was Xinhui, Guangdong, China.

As a young boy, he 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. Since he spoke English fluently, he later taught English at Queen's College, his alma mater.


Lee's father achieved great wealth from the opium trade, and Lee inherited his father's business. Having amassed a great fortune from his successful opium business, Lee later 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. He initially wanted to build opium refinery facilities there, but owing to the global anti-opium movement, he changed his plan and developed the property as Lee Garden.[2] It is approximately the area around Lee Garden Road, Lee Theatre, Yun Ping Road and Percival Street.


In March 1905, Lee's son Richard Charles Lee was born in Hong Kong. In December 1924, Lee's son Jung Kong Lee was also born in Hong Kong.

Death and legacy[edit]

On 30 April 1928, Lee was shot on a street in the Central district in Hong Kong and died shortly after yelling for help. The assassination was possibly due to a growing public resentment of his opium business, which people believed had caused great harm to Chinese society. The assassin was never caught, despite his family offering a huge bounty.

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 him[edit]


There was a popular doggerel in Hong Kong showing Lee's notoriety. The first characters of the first three lines sound (in Cantonese) almost the same as Lee's name:[3]

利己害人 lei6 gei2 hoi6 jan4
欺貧重富 hei1 pan4 cung4 fu3
神憎鬼厭 san4 cang1 gwai2 yim3
街知巷聞 gaai1 zi1 hong6 man4

Literal translation:

Benefiting oneself while harming others,
Oppressing the poor while respecting the rich.
Detested by the deities and disgusted by the ghosts,
Known on the streets and heard on the alleys.

Notable relatives[edit]

Many of Lee's descendants and other family members are notable in their own right:


  1. ^ Butt, Rudi (October 1, 2009, Updated March 22, 2013)"Opium Hall of Fame - Lee Hysan". hongkongfirst.blogspot.com. Retrieved June 3, 2017. 
  2. ^ 馮邦彦 (1997). 香港華資財團, 1841-1997. Hong Kong: Joint Publishing (H.K.). 
  3. ^ 何文翔 (1992). 香港家族史. Hong Kong: Ming Pao Publications. 
  4. ^ Poy, Vivienne (1998). Building bridges. The life & times of Richard Charles Lee : Hong Kong, 1905-1983. Scarborough, Ontario: Calyan Publishing. ISBN 9781896501048. OL 88771M. 

External links[edit]