Ex-Urban Council head Hilton Cheong-Leen dies at 99

A prominent politician in the colonial era, Hilton Cheong-Leen, died at the age of 99 on Tuesday.

Cheong-Leen was the first ethnic Chinese to serve as chairman of the Urban Council between 1981 and 1986. He also served as an elected council member for 34 years from 1957 to 1991, the second longest-serving elected office holder in history.

He was also a member of the Legislative Council for nine years in the 1970s and 80s.

Born in Georgetown, British Guiana to an immigrant Chinese family in 1922, Cheong-Leen moved to Hong Kong when he was around nine years old.

He set up his own import and export business in 1940s, importing gifts and watches, before entering politics.

Cheong-Leen founded the Hong Kong Civic Association – regarded as an opposition group – with others in 1954.

He was known for his role in championing for nine years of free compulsory education in the 1970s.

In a statement, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she was saddened by Cheong-Leen’s death, adding that he was committed to community services and was particularly concerned about the development of local education.