Robert Hotung

Sir Robert Ho Tung KBE (, ; December 23, 1862 - April 26, 1956) was a famous businessman and philanthropist in Hong Kong. He was a Eurasian, reportedly born to an Englishman of Dutch and Jewish descent by the name of H.T. Bosman, and a Chinese woman of Baoan (present-day Shenzhen) heritage, on D'Aguilar Street. He was educated at Queen's College, previously known as the Central School.


After graduating from Queen's College in 1878, Ho Tung went to Guangzhou, where he worked as a clerk for the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs. In 1880, he returned to Hong Kong and joined the dominant British-owned trading company Jardine Matheson as an assistant in the compradore department. His bilingual skills and business acumen eventually propelled him to become Head Compradore, a position he held until his retirement in 1889. Questions of his parentage theorize that his unidentified father was potentially working within the Jardine-Matheson Company.

Ho Tung was a director of many Hong Kong companies, including Hong Kong Land, and served on the boards of influential charitable organisations, including the Tung Wah Hospital. He was founder of the Chinese Club, which was created in response to the colonial Hong Kong Club's policy of excluding those who were not British and white from joining.

Ho Tung was the first Chinese to be allowed to live on Victoria Peak, which had been restricted to Europeans under the Peak Reservation Ordinance. He financed Dr. Sun Yat-sen's revolutions to establish the Republic of China. As a millionaire with significant influence in the colony, he heavily emphasized to the British in the early Colonial Hong Kong era that no part of the Chinese demographics was purely indigenous.


There are many parks, schools, and buildings named after or founded by Ho Tung in Hong Kong, including Lady Ho Tung Hall at Hong Kong University, Hotung Secondary School, Tung Lin Kok Yuen Buddhist temple, and King George V School. In Macau, the Sir Robert Ho Tung Library is housed in a mansion once owned by Ho Tung, who resided there during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong.

The Ho family is still very influential in the Hong Kong business community.

Ho Family

Ho Tung had four sisters and five brothers.

Ho Fook, a younger brother, succeeded him as Head Compradore at Jardine Matheson in 1889. He had 13 sons, five of whom worked as compradores for various foreign companies. One of Ho Fook's grandsons is Stanley Ho, the casino and shipping magnate.

Ho Kom Tong (1866-1950) was a prominent businessman and philanthropist who succeeded Ho Fook as Head Compradore at Jardine Matheson. He had 12 wives and reportedly more than 30 children, one of whom was Grace Ho, the mother of the Chinese actor Bruce Lee. Kom Tong Hall, the former Hong Kong residence of Ho Kom Tong, now houses the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum.

Walter Bosman was educated at Queen's College and won a scholarship to study engineering in England in 1884. Later, he moved to South Africa and co-authored a book on the Natal Rebellion.

Ho Tung Children

Ho Tung had two wives, Margaret and Clara, both of whom were Eurasian. His first wife, Margaret Mak (nee Maclean), was unable to bear children. Subsequently, Ho Tung adopted Ho Fook's first son, Ho Wing, following Chinese tradition.

Clara (nee Cheung), also a Eurasian, later gave birth to three sons and seven daughters.

Hotung's eldest son, Edward Sai Kim Hotung (1902-1957), became a prominent banker and philanthropist in Hong Kong. Edward was founder of the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange in Hong Kong, as well as Treasurer of the Chinese War Chest in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. His sons are Sir Joseph Hotung KBE and Eric Hotung CBE (1926-). He also has two daughters Mary Hotung-Ketterer who received the Royal Order of the Golden Ark knighthood for her work in conservation and Toni Hotung. He also had another son named Patrick who died at the age of 4 of a serious illness.

Eric is a businessman and Ambassador at Large and Economics Advisor for Timor-Leste (East Timor). He was born in Hong Kong and grew up there and in Shanghai. Eric attended Georgetown University in 1947 and graduated in 1951. Afterwards, he worked at the New York Stock Exchange and at General Motors before returning to Hong Kong. He is married to Patricia Anne Shea. They have five sons and three daughters.

Ho Tung's second son, Robert Ho Shai-Lai (1906-1998), was a general under the Kuomintang regime. He was also Ambassador to Japan for the Republic of China from 1952 to 1956 and a member of the Nationalist China military delegation to the United Nations from 1956 to 1966. Robert's son Robert Ho Hung Ngai (1932- ), is the founder of the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Society and a former journalist and publisher in Hong Kong.

George Ho Ho-Chi is the founder of Commercial Radio Hong Kong.

Ho Tung had a son, Henry, who died of tuberculosis in infancy.

Victoria Hotung (Lady Lo) was his eldest daughter. She married Sir Lo Man-kam (M. K. Lo), a prominent Eurasian lawyer and legislator who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth after World War II. Their only son, Lo Tak-sing, was a former lawyer and legislator in Hong Kong who once ran against Tung Chee-hwa for Chief Executive.

Three other daughters - Irene Cheng, Jean Gittins and Florence Yeo - wrote memoirs chronicling their war-time experiences in colonial Hong Kong.

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