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Shipping flows in the family blood

By CNN's Geoff Hiscock, Asia Business Editor

Hong Kong
Beijing (China)
Tung Chee-Hwa
Donald Tsang Yam-kuen

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Before becoming Hong Kong's first Chief Executive in July 1997, Tung Chee Hwa was a billionaire businessman from one of Hong Kong's best known shipping families.

Born in Shanghai in May 1937, Tung is the eldest son of the late shipping magnate C.Y. Tung (Tung Chao Yung), founder of the Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL).

The Tung family had strong commercial interests in Shanghai, but fled to Hong Kong in 1950 after the Communist takeover of China in 1949.

In Hong Kong and Taiwan, C.Y. Tung began building up a fleet of tankers and cargo ships that today, as OOCL, is one of the world's largest integrated logistics, terminal and container shipping companies.

Its fleet includes seven of the world's largest container vessels, the 8,063-TEU (20-foot container equivalent units) SX class.

Along with tankers and cargo ships, Tung senior in 1970 also bought the old Cunard liner "Queen Elizabeth." He renamed it "Seawise University" and began work in Hong Kong harbor on converting it into a floating campus.

In January 1972, the work was nearing completion, with the ship scheduled to sail for Japan for a final check ahead of its maiden voyage in its new guise. But a fire broke out on January 9, destroying the ship in spectacular fashion and creating what remains one of Hong Kong's most talked-about events.

While his father was busy building the Orient Overseas line, Tung Chee Hwa went to the UK to study at the University of Liverpool, where he graduated with a B.Sc in marine engineering. He then went to work for General Electric in the United States.

By 1969, he was back in Hong Kong, working in the family company. He took over as chairman in 1979 when his father fell ill (and subsequently died in 1982).

In the early 1980s, the Tung family's shipping line almost went broke during a global downturn in the industry, but was saved by a restructuring that involved the Bank of China, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and a group of pro-China businessmen led by the influential Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung.

A restructuring of the business saw Fok's group emerge with a stake of 8 percent.

In October 1996, Tung handed over the running of the family business to his younger brother Tung Chee-chen. He stepped down as chairman of OOCL and of Orient Overseas International Line (OOIL) to run for the post of Hong Kong's first Chief Executive.

In the final run-off of a stage-managed poll on 11 December 1996, Tung won easily, picking up 320 of the 400 votes from the selection committee. His rivals, fellow business tycoon Peter Woo Kwong-ching, and former Hong Kong chief justice Sir Yang Ti Liang, received 36 and 42 votes respectively.

Tung was elected unopposed for a second term on February 28, 2002, and began his second term on July 1, 2002.

Tung Chee Hwa is married to Betty Chieu Hung-ping. They have three children, all of whom live in Hong Kong.

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