Ben­jamin Lee: A ma­jor cul­tural ac­tivist in Seat­tle

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By Deng Yu in Seat­tle lin­dadeng@chi­nadai­

“No mat­ter where your fam­ily is from, Chi­nese liv­ing over­seas should knit to­gether to make our com­mu­nity bet­ter. And the Chi­nese cul­ture and tra­di­tion is the cen­tripetal force unit­ing us.”

That’s one of the ba­sic be­liefs of Ben­jamin Lee, a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man and well-known ac­tivist within the Seat­tle Chi­nese com­mu­nity.

With his an­ces­tral home in Shang­hai, Lee was born in Tai­wan and lived in Hong Kong be­fore he came to the United States in 1973 to fur­ther his ed­u­ca­tion.

To­day, Lee is an in­ter­na­tional busi­ness leader who lives in the Seat­tle neigh­bor­hood of Mag­no­lia with his wife Mayumi Oikawa Lee and their three chil­dren, Jonathan, Ju­lianna and Jef­fer­son.

The owner of an ex­portim­port com­pany that spe­cial­izes in tex­tile man­u­fac­tur­ing, Lee is well con­nected to the busi­ness world, es­pe­cially in Asia, from Hong Kong and Shang­hai to Tai­wan. He also in­vests in many businesses, in­clud­ing bank­ing, restaurants and real es­tate.

What has made Lee well known in the Seat­tle Chi­nese com­mu­nity is the lead­er­ship he has demon­strated since the 1990s by giv­ing his time and fi­nan­cial sup­port.

“Com­pared to my own busi­ness, com­mu­nity ser­vice is harder be­cause it is a longer jour­ney that asks for more in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing all the re­sources and ex­pe­ri­ences you have ac­cu­mu­lated over the years,” Lee said. “There has to be some­one will­ing to do this and I am.”

Lee has been work­ing with the Greater Seat­tle Chi­nese Cham­ber of Com­merce as vice-pres­i­dent and then pres­i­dent for six years.

“I have wel­comed hun­dreds of Chi­nese trade del­e­ga­tions to the greater Seat­tle area and wit­nessed the in­creas­ing in­ter­est in the State of Wash­ing­ton from the in­ter­na­tional busi­ness world, es­pe­cially from China,” he said.

Lee has also been in­flu­en­tial in the growth of the Hong Kong As­so­ci­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton (HKAW), a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion es­tab­lished in 1994 by com­mu­nity-minded lead­ers whose com­mon back­ground is hav­ing been raised in Hong Kong.

Af­ter he joined the as­so­ci­a­tion in 2004, he worked closely with the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s na­tional arm and the Fed­er­a­tion of Hong Kong Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tions World­wide. He also built re­la­tion­ships with or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Hong Kong Trade De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil and the Hong Kong Eco­nomic and Trade Of­fice.

Lee was among lead­ers of the HKAW who ini­ti­ated the an­nual Chi­nese New Year Gala, a cel­e­bra­tion of the Lu­nar New Year fea­tur­ing per­for­mances rep­re­sent­ing tra­di­tional and mod­ern as­pects of Chi­nese cul­ture.

Pro­ceeds from the event have gone to ben­e­fit var­i­ous Seat­tle or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Seat­tle Chi­nese Gar­den, the Bruce Lee Ac­tion Mu­seum and the Seat­tle Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal.

“The HKAW Foun­da­tion is proud to sup­port im­por­tant pieces of cul­ture and her­itage as part of our lo­cal and global com­mu­nity. We are thrilled that the Bruce Lee fam­ily has selected Seat­tle as the home for this fan­tas­tic mu­seum and we are putting all our re­sources be­hind sup­port­ing this im­por­tant fu­ture land­mark for Seat­tle and the Asian Com­mu­nity,” Lee said.

Last year, $230,000 was raised when a record 1,000 people at­tended the fundrais­ing kick­off for the Bruce Lee Ac­tion Mu­seum in Seat­tle on Feb 9, spon­sored by the HKAW Foun­da­tion.

This year, the HKAW part­nered with the Seat­tle Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal, an in­de­pen­dent, pri­vate, not-for-profit re­gional pe­di­atric cen­ter, to cel­e­brate the Lu­nar New Year with an event that raised more than $360,000.

“What is im­por­tant is that we have our Chi­nese tra­di­tions and cul­ture pro­moted through more com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­ter­ac­tions with main­stream so­ci­ety,” said Lee, who be­lieves the best way to pro­mote the over­seas Chi­nese com­mu­nity is to be a real part of the Amer­i­can com­mu­nity.

“Our over­seas Chi­nese should ac­tively in­te­grate into the main­stream so­ci­ety of Amer­ica by tak­ing more re­spon­si­bil­ity for the well­be­ing and im­prove­ment of our com­mu­ni­ties, cities, not only the Chi­nese com­mu­nity,’’ he said.

In 2013, Lee was awarded the Out­stand­ing Phi­lan­thropist Award by the HKAW for his com­mu­nity work.

Lee has given not only his time to help var­i­ous lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions, but also his fi­nan­cial sup­port. He do­nated to the Seat­tle Chi­nese Gar­den’s fundrais­ing cam­paign for its first phase of con­struc­tion, as well as to site en­hance­ments and cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams at the Gar­den. He has do­nated to the Chi­nese In­for­ma­tion and Ser­vice Cen­ter, nurs­ing homes in King County, Chi­nese schools and many ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions in art and mu­sic.

“I want to thank my happy fam­ily who have sup­ported me fully in my com­mu­nity ser­vice and job,” Lee said.


at is im­por­tant is that we have our Chi­nese tra­di­tions and cul­ture pro­moted through more com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­ter­ac­tions with main­stream so­ci­ety,” BEN­JAMIN LEE SEAT­TLE CHI­NESE COM­MU­NITY AC­TIVIST


Ben­jamin Lee (right), pres­i­dent emir­i­tus of the Hong Kong As­so­ci­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton, poses with Hurry Shum, ex­ec­u­tive vi­cepres­i­dent of Tech­nol­ogy & Re­search at Mi­crosoft, at 2014 Mi­crosoft Asian Spring Fes­ti­val Cel­e­bra­tion.

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