Henry Fok : biography
Henry Fok Ying Tung (10 May 1923 – 28 October 2006) was a Hong Kong businessman. He has ancestral roots in Nansha, Panyu, now part of Guangzhou, Guangdong). Fok was the vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference of PRC since March 1993, and was possibly the most powerful Hongkonger in the politics of the People’s Republic of China.
Born on 10 May 1923 in Hong Kong, Fok’s father died in a boating accident when he was just seven. He studied at Queen’s College, but was not able to finish junior high due to the Japanese invasion in 1937. He worked as a laborer during that time while helping to run the family’s small boat business.
After the war, he became a successful businessman. His business interests included restaurants. real estate, casinos and petroleum. Fok reportedly made his first fortune gun-running into the mainland during the Korean War in the early 1950s, circumventing a United Nations arms embargo. Fok vigorously denied weapons trafficking, but admits having violated sanctions by smuggling steel and rubber as well as other items.
He was the President of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, the President of the Hong Kong Football Association, and the President of the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong. He was also the Chairman of Henry Fok Estates Ltd and the Yau Wing Co of Hong Kong.
Before the handover of Hong Kong in 1997, Henry Fok was a member of the Drafting Committee for the Basic Law of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), the vice-chairman of the Preliminary Working Committee of Preparatory Committee of the Hong Kong SAR, and the vice-chairman of the Preparatory Committee of Hong Kong SAR. He was also Standing Committee member of 7th National People’s Congress.
The press frequently reports that Henry Fok had introduced Tung Chee Hwa to Jiang Zemin as a possible candidate of the first Hong Kong Chief Executive.
Henry Fok helped Tung Chee Hwa out of a near-bankruptcy of his family’s Orient Overseas Container Line in the 1980s. Because of this relationship, it was often said while Tung was the Chief Executive of Hong Kong that Fok ‘intervened/advised’ if times, or rather Beijing, called for it.
Henry Fok founded the Fok Ying Tung Foundation in 1984, and it is now one of the largest philanthropic organizations in Hong Kong. Fok founded a high-technology business park in Nansha. He is said to have visited the site more than 500 times, and through the Foundation, pledged HK$800 million (US$100 million) to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2005 to support the initiative.
Among Fok’s children, the best-known are:
- Timothy Fok Tsun-ting – Hong Kong Football Association chairman and Legislative Council member.
- Ian Fok Chun-wan – Managing Director, Yau Wing Co. Ltd.; Director, Fok Ying Tung Foundation Ltd, a former chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, whose son was convicted for drug possession in 2005.
- Thomas Fok – son of Fok’s second wife Ana Fung, born 1950, worked at the family firm; served six months in a US detention centre in 1991 for conspiracy to smuggle 15,000 AK47 assault rifles into the United States and on to the Croatian Government to fight Serbia. Divorced from Emma Hung Kwok-wah in 1997., Forbes.com, Debra Lau, 24 Jan 2001
- Benjamin C.Y. Fok
Fok had family roots in Nansha District, Guangzhou, Guangdong.
On 28 October 2006, Fok died at the age of 83 at the Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, where he was being treated for cancer. He had been diagnosed with lymphoma in 1984 and the cancer had reappeared in 2004. His body was flown back to Hong Kong for a traditional funeral in accordance with his wishes. Fok was the third Hong Konger to have his casket draped in the Chinese national flag since the handover (the others being T. K. Ann and Wong Ker-lee).