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Sham Shui Po Ming Gor: Legacy with the Seed of Love


“I want to pass on the seed of love to our young generation, to continue our service and give back to our society.  What I am going to hand down is not only materials, but the philosophy of surviving,” said Ming Gor.

There are a lot of men named Ming Gor, but there is only one Sham Shui Po Ming Gor.  He is Chan Cheuk Ming.

"One can be a distinguish leader in any trade, I just never expected that I could be a leader by giving out free meals.”  Meeting us at 6 in the morning when everyone was still bleary-eyed, Ming Gor with bright eyes was ready and spirited to tell us his story.

"When I was young, the mainland was yet not open to the outside world.  Everybody was in poverty.  Even if all the windows and doors were open, no one would steal anything from us.  We were all struggling to survive.”

Ming Gor’s father passed away when he was 14 years old.  He is the eldest brother with 6 siblings and mom was the only breadwinner in the family.  The monthly salary was only enough to pay rent and buy food. When he was studying, he had to apply for subsidies even if it was only a RMB$2 stationery item.  He could no longer study after primary school, so he started working on a job arranged by the government.  He was young and willing to work 14 hours a day with a monthly salary of RMB$24.  Just like his parents, Ming Gor was very diligent in his job, yet he also thought of improving his quality of life.  1979 was a turning point, a friend referred him to work in Hong Kong as a chef.  Looking back, it seems that in the blink of an eye, he has spent almost half a century here.

"I soon started working at Pei Ho Restaurant with a monthly pay of around HK$3,000.  I never requested for a pay raise though I had been working for more than a decade.  At first, the restaurant only served Canton barbecue food.  We suggested offering authentic Hong Kong dishes and the turnover nicely increased.  Our boss trusted us and allowed us to run the restaurant.  In return, he kept raising our pays.” 

The restaurant owner emigrated abroad in 1995.  Ming Gor decided to give it a try and bought the restaurant with 7 colleagues.  Unfortunately, his partners employed illegal workers to reduce running costs.  Kind-hearted Ming Gor took up the responsibility and pleaded guilty, but he was imprisoned for 3 months.  But all the colleagues left the restaurant after he was released.  “I have been a chef all my life and I am not very good at management; a lot of money was lost then.  My wife asked me to give up or I would be left with no money.”   But he eventually found new partners and kept running the restaurant from morning till late serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In 2001, the 911 Incident further worsened the global economy and also the Hong Kong market.  Understanding the tough lives of the grassroots citizens, Ming Gor chose to turn his mid-range restaurant to sell affordable meals at HK$15 for 3 dishes.   While he was struggling to survive, the Minimum Wage Ordinance established in the same year heavily hit Pei Ho Restaurant.  "I was already 60 then and the restaurant made no profit.  I was struggling to give up, but the situation changed when I met a group of people.”

These young people donated their HK$6,000 from the government’s scheme to set up the “We Love, Therefore We Share” program and cooperated with Ming Gor.  The campaign with the help of 200 volunteers gave up 400 free meals weekly.  The story covered by TV news attracted many people from other districts who found the low-priced food was delicious and they could help others.  Word spread and the restaurant’s business improved.  

"I promised myself that as long as the business is stable, I can cover rent and wages; I will not increase prices and give back to society. I hope that all grassroots people will be well fed.”  In 2008, Pei Ho sold a meal for $22, yet currently it’s only $30.  Ming Gor said with a smile that he is not good at making money, but he likes to help others.  Starting his philanthropic work at 60, he is dedicated to carry on the mission.  "I have never been able to make a lot of money.  I always want to help others because I have a soft heart.  I hope my neighbours can eat well without spending too much."   Living a modest life, Ming Gor has been wearing the same workwear for over 30 years, which was once blue and now off-white.

Twelve years ago, thanks to Mr Sammo Hung, Ming Gor turned into the philanthropist we know today.  “I remember one year he came to visit and asked me if his program can help the restaurant to survive.  He left me HK$10,000 and told me to give out free meals to the elderly and the grassroots citizens.  I started to think about how to effectively use the money.  At that time, the young people only gave out free meals once a month, and I want to do it weekly.  I then went to count the number of homeless people who stayed in the space under the Sham Shui Po bridge.  There were about 60 of them, and I set my goal of giving out 60 free meals.”

Carrying on the charity work for over a decade, Ming Gor has brought positive vibes to the community.  He is now giving out more than 1,300 free meals per week, accounting for over 67,000 meals a year.  “Many government canteens are closed on Saturday and Sunday, leaving the needy without meals.  We take action to fill the gaps, hoping to persuade the government canteens in different districts to provide services 7 days a week.”

Ming Gor established the " Pei Ho (Ming Gor) Charity Foundation” in 2016, and the volunteers of “Pei Ho Counterparts” come from various districts.  Strongly believing that teaching by example is the best way to pass on heritage, all of his family including his daughter comes help.  However, Ming Gor’s all-time companion is an exception – his wife now focuses on taking care of their grandchildren.  The charity foundation mainly serves homeless people, those with disabilities, elderly living alone, ethnic minorities, refugees and the needy waiting for CSSA approval, as referred by the Social Welfare Department.

At the age of 71, Ming Gor, hoping to pass on the legacy of kindness and inspire more people to contribute to the society, has no plan to retire.  He wants to explore more on the sustainable development model for self-financing social enterprise and extend their services to different districts in Hong Kong.  “A social enterprise has to serve the society in the long run.  I hope everyone can continue to help the needy, work on everything with heart and don’t give up.”   A selfless and fearless icon in our time who is dedicated to helping others, Ming Gor will pass on this spirit of community care and mutual help.



Interview by:Ivy Cheung and Alice Lee

Photography:Charles Wan

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