This 75-year-old woman transformed Hong Kong’s notorious Chungking Mansions from a vice den into a safe place [A Bounce Back Story]

This 75-year-old woman transformed Hong Kong’s notorious Chungking Mansions from a vice den into a safe place
[A Bounce Back Story]

Salina Lam, who has been Chairwoman of the Tsim Sha Tsui tower block for 22 years, tells Gloria Chan how she helped turn it from a den of vice into a safe destination.

Lam Wai-lung became the chairwoman of the Owners' Corporation of Chungking Mansions in 1993; Chungking Mansions in 1985. Photos: Vicky Feng, SCMP

I WAS BORN IN FUZHOU, in Fujian province, in 1940. I married an architect but he passed away before reaching the age of 40. On November 19, 1979, I came to Hong Kong with my six-year-old daughter upon the request of my father.

MY FATHER OWNED a jade trading business in Hawaii and used to work in Hong Kong a few months every year. I stayed with him for just 9 days in Hong Kong before he had to leave for [a trip to] Taiwan. He had a stroke there and, after struggling for 30 days, he died.

I TOOK THREE JOBS. By 1988, I had managed to save enough money to buy a property in Chungking Mansions with 2 friends. It cost HK$600,000 back then. I currently have 7 properties and they are all in Chungking Mansions. Running guesthouses is my main business.

Watch: How Chungking Mansions became what it is today

IN 1993 I became the chairwoman of the Owners’ Corporation of Chungking Mansions. Sometimes I walk around, to meet the tourists and tenants. They say, “Hello, good morning”, to me in Cantonese even though most of them are non-Chinese. They say, “Good morning”, even when it’s evening.

CHUNGKING MANSIONS WAS KNOWN as a rough and shady place. We hired better security staff – a management company simply wasn’t enough – and we chose people who had been policemen. We also installed 400 surveillance cameras. I think all of Hong Kong should eventually have CCTV installed; it’s really useful in lowering the crime rate.

I START WORK AT 8.30 AM and leave my office at about 9pm. Our Owners Group has 14 members and meets once every two months. One of the members is 91 years old – he must be the oldest person working in Chungking Mansions, and has been living here since it was built.

PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED WHEN they learn the chairperson of Chungking Mansions is a woman. They say I must be ruling with an iron fist, because I am a woman. I am, in terms of management, but we also need to be harmonious even when we are being strict.

I’M OVER 70 NOW. Most people think I’m about 50, but I’ve started to get wrinkles. I don’t want to remember my age, it doesn’t define who I am. I hope to be chairwoman of Chungking Mansions until the day I can’t open my eyes.

I DON’T WORK FOR MONEY – I have more than enough.I work because I enjoy contributing to society. Perhaps this is why I’m still so vigorous. I have never thought of retiring.

City’s own ‘global ghetto’ – the Chungking Mansions story

#SalinaLam  #ChungKingMansions  #ChungkingMansionGuesthouses   #HongKongGuesthouses  #BounceBackStories

Published by

Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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