Leong-term Vi­sion

HARD WORK, LUCK AND HEART PAVED THE ROAD TO SUC­CESS FOR BUSI­NESS MAG­NATE An­gela Leong. THE WOMAN AT STAN­LEY HO’S SIDE TELLS Madeleine Ross WHY SHE IS NOW DE­VOT­ING SO MUCH TIME TO AD­VANC­ING THE LIVES OF YOUNG PEO­PLE IN HONG KONG

Hong Kong Tatler - - Close-up -

We sit in the beau­ti­ful colo­nial head­quar­ters of the Po Le­ung Kuk, wait­ing for busi­ness mag­nate An­gela Leong to ar­rive. We’re told she is in a meet­ing and she’ll only have a brief win­dow to speak with us be­fore her next ap­point­ment. “I wish there were 48 hours in the day,” she will tell us mo­men­tar­ily, upon her ar­rival. “I don’t like sleep­ing. If hu­mans didn’t have to sleep, that would be great.”

Traf­fic rages on Leighton Road in ca­cophonous Cause­way Bay. But be­hind the so­ci­ety’s steel gates, all is calm. We bide our time in the lofty, grand Old Hall. Our eyes drift up its walls, ad­mir­ing black-and-white por­traits of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s ven­er­a­ble bene­fac­tors, which cover al­most ev­ery inch of avail­able sur­face. Out of the still­ness ap­proaches a clam­our of voices and the pur­pose­ful clip-clop of high heels on pol­ished stone. Within mo­ments, Leong and her en­tourage blus­ter into our midst.

Orig­i­nally from Guangzhou, Leong trained in and taught ball­room danc­ing in Ma­cau be­fore en­coun­ter­ing Ho in 1986. They met at a pri­vate ball and bonded over their mu­tual light­ness of foot. Does she still dance? “My best part­ner—also my life part­ner—mr Ho, can­not dance right now, so I don’t dance any­more. But I still rem­i­nisce on the days we used to dance the cha-cha and tango,” she says with a smile, with­out let­ting nos­tal­gia in any way al­ter her ab­so­lute com­po­sure.

Fast-for­ward 28 years and Leong is flex­ing very dif­fer­ent mus­cles—most no­tably in pol­i­tics, as a mem­ber of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil of Ma­cau, and in busi­ness, as an ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of SJM Hold­ings, the multi­bil­lion-dollar casino em­pire founded by Ho. Amid all that she has also man­aged to raise five chil­dren.

But we’re here to­day to dis­cuss Leong’s phil­an­thropic work with the Po Le­ung Kuk, the or­gan­i­sa­tion for which she serves as chair­man. It’s a noble en­ter­prise she spear­heads, and it’s clear she brings the same fire and pas­sion to her char­ity work as she does to her busi­ness deal­ings.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion, es­tab­lished in 1880 as the So­ci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Women and Chil­dren, cut its teeth re­solv­ing kid­nap­pings, aid­ing des­ti­tute women and chil­dren, and me­di­at­ing fam­ily and mar­riage dis­putes in the early 20th cen­tury. Its scope of so­cial wel­fare ser­vices has broad­ened sig­nif­i­cantly since then. Ed­u­ca­tion is now its key fo­cus; the Po Le­ung Kuk sub­sidises 97 schools in Hong Kong, in­clud­ing kinder­gartens, pri­mary and sec­ondary schools, and ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions.

“Get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion is the most im­por­tant thing in life. When you have ed­u­ca­tion, you can use your own re­sources and ca­pa­bil­i­ties to help oth­ers,” says Leong. The Po Le­ung Kuk em­pha­sises bal­anced learn­ing—cog­ni­tive, so­cial, phys­i­cal and moral—and en­cour­ages stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties and com­mu­nity ser­vice. It also tries to equip stu­dents with skills be­yond those taught in the re­quired cur­ricu­lum. A re­cent part­ner­ship with Citibank taught young­sters the first steps of fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, for ex­am­ple.

Aside from ed­u­ca­tion, the or­gan­i­sa­tion also pro­vides med­i­cal and den­tal care to those in need, adop­tion ser­vices, care for the aged, coun­selling and sup­port for ado­les­cents, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices for the hand­i­capped, and what it calls “res­i­den­tial child­care”—care for chil­dren rang­ing from new­borns up to 18 years of age, who are or­phans or from fam­i­lies with a his­tory of child abuse or other prob­lems.

The most sat­is­fy­ing part of her job, Leong says, is en­sur­ing th­ese chil­dren are raised in a safe and lov­ing en­vi­ron­ment. “I vis­ited the nurs­ery and met a very cute, smart lit­tle

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