In 1952, Lui Sang Hum’s mother and her children fled Communist China for Hong Kong. Her maternal grandfather in Canada, who had immigrated to Stephenville, Newfoundland in 1919, had urged the family to try to escape to the British colony because of persecution by the Communists.
Because Lui Sang’s father had served in the village government, formerly under the Kuomintang, the Communists arrested him and sent him to a labour camp. They also punished the family by labelling them as landlords. As a consequence, their house and land were confiscated.
In 1958, Lui Sang was 17 when her mother told her she was to be sent to Ottawa to mind her aunt’s four children so that her aunt could “go out to work to make money.” Lui Sang came as a “paper daughter” of a family in Ottawa; in fact, that girl had died in infancy in China.
Lui Sang began taking English lessons two evenings a week at the Chinese Mission. Her teacher, Miss Evelyn Ricker, a former social worker with the United Church Women’s Missionary Society in China, named her Kathy. At the Mission, Lui Sang met Tsan Chung Wong, another student of Miss Ricker’s, who had given him the name Gordon.
Tsan had originally fled Communist China for Hong Kong. He found a promising position at a British shipyard as an apprentice machinist. In 1956, his grandfather’s brother, a cook at the hospital in London, Ontario, thwarted his career. A partner at his café in nearby Exeter had gone to Hong Kong to look for a wife. He wanted Tsan to help out at the café in his absence. He arranged for him to enter Canada as a “paper son.”
When his stint in Exeter ended, Tsan contacted his paper father’s older brother in Ottawa. Stanley Wong, who was married to Marion Bristol, had left his job as a chef for a wealthy family in Montreal in 1941 and moved with his family to Ottawa to take over the Canton Inn at 205 Albert Street. Stanley gave Tsan a job washing dishes.
In 1960, Tsan sought the advice of his mother in Hong Kong about whether he should return there to find a wife. She said that since he was only a labourer, he couldn’t compete with other returning prospective grooms, most of whom were business owners. Left on his own to find a wife, Tsan courted Lui Sang. They married in 1962. By then, Tsan was part owner of the Canton Inn, which the Wong family had sold upon Stanley’s death.
Gordon Wong: “Sometimes we go to Dow’s Lake”