Memorable Manitobans: Hung Yuen Lee (1913-2005)
Restauranteur, community activist.
Born in China in 1913, he was educated at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen University in China and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Agriculture in 1938. He immigrated to Canada in 1964 and settled in Winnipeg as a co-owner of the Shanghai Restaurant in Chinatown. The restaurant was a popular spot and a cornerstone of the comunity, with patrons lined up beneath its neon red sign and along the block, waiting to get in, sometimes for more than an hour, even in winter. Generations of many Winnipeg families built a tradition out of visits to the Shanghai, especially when it was one of very few Chinese restaurants in the city.
Soon afterwards, Lee became increasingly active in community and charitable work through the Chinese Benevolent Association, a non-profit organization. In 1974, he was elected President of the Association. He was a leader in organizing the annual Winnipeg multicultural festival, Folklorama, for over 15 years. To celebrate the Winnipeg centennial year in 1974, he coordinated and provided major contributions for the construction of a Chinese Pavilion in the Assiniboine Park as a gift from the Winnipeg Chinese Community to the City of Winnipeg. Through his liaison work, the City of Winnipeg and the City of Tai-Chung in the Republic of China (Taiwan) became sister cities in 1982.
He had a grand vision for the revitalization of Winnipeg’s Chinatown and devoted much of his efforts towards that goal. With the support from all three levels of government, he led a feasibility study for the renewal of the Winnipeg Chinatown in 1972 and played an essential role in the rejuvenation of the area from 1981 to 1986. In conjunction with the Core Area Initiative, a program involving the three levels of government was accomplished: the construction of the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre complex on King Street; the beautification of its immediate area; and the construction of a large multi-dwelling building. His vision for the Winnipeg Chinese community also included a foundation to support future projects, and he was a major donor to The Winnipeg Foundation for that purpose.
With his wife, Yuk Lun Chan (?-1982), he had nine children. He died at Winnipeg on 21 October 2005 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 26 October 2005.
“A bittersweet ending: After 70 years in the family, the Shanghai Restaurant in Winnipeg closes” by Melissa Leong, National Post, 8 January 2011.
This page was prepared by Lois Braun.
Page revised: 25 February 2022