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
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