Local Portuguese community leader Arnaldo de Oliveira Sales, popularly known as Sonny, who recently died aged 100, was a prominent, and intermittently polarising, figure in Hong Kong’s wider community life for more than 60 years. Born in 1920 on Shamian, the Anglo-French concession island in Canton (Guangzhou), Sales was educated at La Salle College in Kowloon, and – like many among Hong Kong’s Portuguese community – spent the Pacific war years as a refugee in neutral Macau. He later married Edith Nolasco da Silva, an heiress and a member of one of Macau’s wealthiest Macanese families; they had no children, and she died in 2006. Sales was an example of a type once widely found among Macanese – and Filipino – cultures; the mestizo-branco (“mixed-white”) who rose to social prominence and community influence in race-conscious colonial or semi-colonial societies. In both of these groups, those who oriented towards their Western side – and could pass for white, as Sales did – tended to reach higher positions of power and influence than those of mestizo-Asiatico (“mixed-Asian”) appearance. Sporting interests – field hockey, in particular – were a lifelong passion. For decades, he chaired the Victoria Recreation Club – Hong Kong’s oldest sporting club, established in 1849; its magnificent Sai Kung venue exists because of him. Sales’ iron-fisted determination ensured that Hong Kong competed as a separate international Olympic entity from the rest of China. A brave man, he personally enabled the release of Hong Kong team members taken hostage by Palestinians at the 1972 Munich Olympics . He did this through Cantonese fluency – a skill he tended to keep quiet – by telling them to slip away. His spoken Portuguese had a pronounced British accent; politically, he remained a lifelong admirer of Portugal’s fascist dictator António Salazar. Appointed to Hong Kong’s Urban Council in 1957, he went on to chair the body from 1973-81. During his tenure, differing opinions received short shrift; Sales usually got his way by taking a shrewd long-term tactical approach, in effect, playing off his opponents against one another, and steamrollering his way as a final resort. That Hong Kong’s broader political franchise was practically non-existent helped; the Urban Council was the only vehicle for the genuinely elected to exercise any real power, even if that authority was limited to hawker control and the provision of swimming pools, playing fields, concert halls and public parks. Urban Council membership provided an outlet for civic-minded individuals with political talents, like Sales, to exercise their skills without rocking bigger boats. This consideration was especially important when China remained profoundly suspicious of any potential Trojan Horse that hinted towards wider democratic representation in Hong Kong. Only two possible courses of action existed around Sonny Sales: his way – or his way. A tendency to rub people up the wrong way extended all the way to the governor of Hong Kong; Sales crossed swords with Murray MacLehose on various occasions, and usually came out on top. This dogmatic tendency largely explains why a man of his energy, community spirit and proven ability was never appointed to either of the Legislative or Executive Councils. In the pre-handover years, statelessness after 1997 for non-Chinese holders of Hong Kong British nationality was a vexed political issue. Many local Portuguese, through generations of birth in Hong Kong (or elsewhere in Treaty Port-era China) had lost any claim to Portuguese nationality. Through successful lobbying in Lisbon, in a widely respected move, Sales was able to reinstate an ancestral nationality for many local Portuguese. Whatever else Sonny Sales may have been, he was a true Hong Kong patriot, and the interests of his hometown and its people always – always – came first. In these sadly leaderless days, this single-minded strength of purpose towards the common good is so noticeably, tragically absent.