Sir David Tang, who became a star of London and Hong Kong societies, and local celebrities, the Thomas family, feature in the latest FT Weekend. Rog Thomas wrote a letter praising their family friend who has died. We feel this letter is worthy of wider circulation, in honour of David, Mui and Tina and Rog, the admirable couple who adopted her.
Here it is (and below we run a brief profile of David):
Tang’s act of kindness will always be remembered
Sir, David Tang (FT Weekend, Obituary, 2 September 2017) was simply “Uncle David” to our daughter, Mui. Born with a rare, life threatening disorder called harlequin ichthyosis, and abandoned at birth, my wife Tina and I adopted Mui in Hong Kong.
David became a close friend from the very first day we met him; the day he changed one act of discrimination into something very good. He changed our lives. When Mui began at international school, she had to go by bus. We booked a seat for the term. The first evening we received a phone call from a woman at the bus company. “I saw your daughter today,” the woman spat down the phone. “Your daughter looks like a monster… She will scare all children… She will never go to school on my bus.”
No one offered help; people looked the other way. Mui was banned from the school bus and there was nothing we could do. It was devastating. We shielded her from the truth and moved on. Three years later Tina received a phone call from a man we had never met. “I’m David Tang. I’ve heard about you and your family. I’d like to meet you.” We met David at his private club. His humour was immediate, outrageous and fun and he had Mui in a fit of giggles from the off. He wasted no time in helping us.
“What’s this about a school bus? How about a taxi back and forth to school? You find a driver, I’ll pay.” The following Monday Mr Lee became Mui’s twice-daily chauffeur.
Trips, parties, lunches, dinners and so much more… down the years David and his wife, Lucy, have done so many things for us. On Mui’s 21st birthday, a day doctors said she would never see and we would never celebrate, we celebrated together with David and Lucy on their boat. David has been a larger than life figure in a great many people’s lives and it is has been a privilege to be called a friend by him and to call him our friend, too.
We shall miss David greatly.
More than just a socialite, David Tang was a highly creative entrepreneur
David Tang, the sometime Sai Kung resident with a waterfront house near the country park, was a character of unusual wit and charm. The quote that best sums up David may be this one by actor Russell Crowe: “The pleasure was mine. Witty, charming, intellectual, salacious, hilarious, loving and funny as f***.”
David, who has died at 63, would probably have liked this accolade from the BBC’s John Simpson: “Generous host, man of superb taste, great raconteur: spirit of Hong Kong at its former best.”
Cigar-smoking, purple-costumed, David Tang inherited a fortune from a grandparent who founded Kowloon Motor Bus. He used wealth and relentless wit to charm his way into the company of Princess Diana, Prince Charles, the Queen and stars like Kate Moss. His wife Lucy likes to tell a story about his teaching the Queen a card trick at Sandringham.
Lucy was by his side when he died at the end of August at Royal Marsden Hospital, Chelsea. A long battle with cancer included a liver transplant. David left two children by a previous marriage, Edmund and Victoria.
He was not just a socialite. Highly creative, he founded the Shanghai Tang fashion label, later sold to the Swiss group Richemont. Also he set up China Clubs in Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore, along with restaurants such as La Caprice in Hong Kong. His Agony Uncle column in the Financial Times was the first read for many people as they settled down with the Weekend edition. It was full of banal comments from daft readers with too much time on their hands. David would put them down with outrageous wit.
In 2008 David was knighted for his support of charities and other good causes (see letter of appreciation above from the Thomases). He was an Anglophile who joked that he was yellow on the outside and white in the middle.
Doctors told David a few months ago that he had little time left. Typically he set up a party for friends. At the Dorchester Hotel it was to be his farewell. He didn’t make it.