Paper King shows way

City talk | Siu Sai-wo 23 Jul 2021

July is the peak month for publishing, and I just received a copy of a biography book on "Paper King" Patrick Lee Wan-keung.

I am an avid reader of biographical works. A while back, I received another one - on Genting Group founder Lim Goh Tong - and devoured it in just a few days.

Biographies of successful people are a record of the battles that they have fought. The narratives also reflect changes in society, so they are both readable and inspiring.

The one on Lee, for example, chronicled how he started his business empire with HK$3,000 and how he had made succession arrangements to let the second generation grow it further. The journey provides much food for thought.

Lee had come from the mainland and made his fortune here. One person who figured prominently in his life was his third uncle, Lee Tung-nam.

A top student at the Diocesan Boys' School, this uncle had a Westernized style. He supported his young nephew like his own son and they lived at Mirador Mansion in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Those were the days when the younger Lee rode the same elevator with famous Qi Xiao Fu performing troupe kung fu stars like Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao, because their sifu Yu Jim-yuen lived in the same building.

Uncle and nephew later moved to Mandarin Court on Argyle Street, where the window in Lee's room faced that of another big movie star, Patrick Tse Yin.

His uncle placed much importance on education and, incidentally, former Polytechnic University president Poon Chung-kwong was his son-in-law.

Lee had attended evening school to learn English and his uncle later sent him to secondary school.

The uncle also wanted to send him abroad to further his education, but Lee gently turned down that offer because he didn't want to spend more of his uncle's money.

Lee subsequently set up Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing. Industrious and insightful, he expanded it over the years, and the second generation has taken the group into areas such as chemicals.

In Lee's success story, we can find a wealth of experience that can't be gleaned from books or an education at an elite school, which led me to think about the DSE students whose results had just come out.

Those who did well may, of course, continue their education on a wide and straight path. But those who didn't do so well can also find success by taking alternative routes, as is well-demonstrated by the Paper King.

Siu Sai-wo is publisher of Sing Tao Daily

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