White Collar

Even during a typhoon, she’d persevere. Bankers in Central honour the news stand owner who delivered the daily paper without fail for half a century

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 March, 2016, 6:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2016, 11:21am

Lee Mak Kim was not a female chief executive or director but her funeral saw HSBC and Hang Seng Bank taipans paying their respects to the working mother who delivered the daily newspaper to their offices for 50 years.

The 80-year old who passed away from lung cancer had run the newspaper stand in front of the HSBC headquarters in Central. At her funeral held on Saturday, there were flowers sent by top bankers, including Hang Seng Bank chief executive Rose Lee.

“For half a century, Mrs Lee [Mak Kim] served many executives in the financial industry in Hong Kong with loyalty and affection. She will be missed by her many good friends,” Rose Lee said, adding that she had known Lee for 40 years.

Lee’s newspaper kiosk stands as a unique testament to how a hardworking woman can contribute to the business world in her own way.

As this column learned from speaking with her son Albert Lee, the news stand was part of a family run business, handed down over the generations. The business was founded three generations ago by the matriarch of the family. It then passed to Lee Mak Kim’s mother, and then eventually to Lee, almost 60 years ago.

Lee Mak Kim worked with her husband until he became ill in the 1990s. Thereafter Lee, who was fondly known around Statue Square as “the female boss,” continue to run the newspaper stand and to deliver hundreds of newspapers daily including the South China Morning Post to the headquarters of HSBC and other offices in Central.

“Selling newspapers may be just small business, but it has raised our family with four children. My mother always took it seriously and put the customers needs as her first priority. I am proud of my mother,” Albert Lee said.

He added that his mother never received sick leave, nor did she follow the normal rules when poor weather struck.

“Even when typhoon number 8 or 10 was hoisted, she still woke up at 3am and went to deliver in Central as she said the customers needed the newspapers for their work. Many offices demand delivery before 7am and she was never late. I am proud of what my mother did,” he said.

In a video made by the HSBC in 2013, Lee Mak Kim said she needed two hours every day to deliver the newspapers and that she was friends with all customers.

“If you bought newspaper two times from me, I’d remembered you and what you wanted,” she said in the video.

“I never stopped working. If I stop working, I got sick,” she said.

In 2014 she reluctantly retired owing to poor health. The job was passed to her daughter Masie, who now delivers newspaper every morning until 9am and then heads off to an office job.

“It is true that there are increasing number of people are reading news online these days and there are competition from free dailies. We believe the newspaper has a role to play,” Albert Lee said.