Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) since May last year, was born 50 years ago into a community that no longer exists: the refugee shanty town and Nationalist stronghold of Rennie's Mill, in east Kowloon. It was cleared of homes in the 1990s, when new town Tseung Kwan O was developed. His parents arrived in Hong Kong from Shandong province in 1949. The fifth of six children, he grew up speaking Putonghua. 'Rennie's Mill was a small slice of China [that refused] to integrate,' he said. He described his parents as 'struggling intellectuals, clinging to an old non-existent China' but added 'we had a decent house and a garden with a big forecourt, trees everywhere and a fantastic sea view'. At 17, he left Hong Kong to study his A-level subjects in England and rented a three-storey house which he afforded by sub-letting bedrooms to other students 'at cost, non-profit, like the URA'. He graduated from the University of Sussex in 1981 with a first-class BSc honours degree in mathematics and computer science. He returned to Hong Kong and had various jobs for short stints, including one in film production, before he went to study at Harvard in Boston to obtain an MBA. After Harvard he was recruited in 1987 as a management consultant by McKinsey & Company and worked for the firm in Los Angeles. In 1990, a chance meeting with Hong Kong's Dame Lydia (now Baroness) Dunn at a Stanford University conference changed the course of his life. 'Go back to Hong Kong. We need you,' he recalled her telling him in the difficult aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The remark left an impression on Mr Cheung and, still with McKinsey, he returned the following year with his family. In 1993, he was seconded for two years as a full-time member of the government's Central Policy Unit. He later became chief executive officer of an oil company, and then headed an asset management firm. He became CEO of Singaporean-controlled Titan Petrochemicals Group in 2004, which has seen its revenue grow 10 times in four years to more than US$2 billion. Mr Cheung is now Titan's deputy chairman. He joined the board of the Land Development Corporation in 1995 and its statutory body replacement, the URA, in 2001. His position as URA chairman is a non-executive, honorary role that he devotes about half a day a week to. Religion is also important to Mr Cheung and he looks forward to Sunday Catholic Mass with his family as 'a peaceful, comforting time to reflect'. Mr Cheung is passionate about 'helping people to move out of misery' and about showing flexibility when the URA deals with elderly and frail people. Residents affected by URA projects were his priority, he said, not developers. He has reportedly only met a developer once since becoming URA chairman. Mr Cheung enjoys reading and keeps fit by running and doing weights. He is also known to shop regularly at the Graham Street fresh market, site of a controversial URA redevelopment plan.