Chinatown Interview: Interviewee
Chinatown Interview: Interviewer
Chinatown Interview: Date
Chinatown Interview: Language
Chinatown Interview: Occupation
Chinatown Interview: Interview (en)
Q: Today is February 26th, 2004. This is the Chinatown Oral History Project of Museum of Chinese in the Americas. Today, we invited Mr. Henry Chung, former president of Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA). The interviewer is me, I-ching Ng. Mr. Chung, when were you born?
Chung: I was born on [September 29th] 1919.
Q: Where are you from?
Chung: I’m from Mei county in Guangdong province, China.
Q: Why did you come to the United States?
Chung: Actually I went to India in 1937. My brother-in-law had business over there. I went there to help him out. When World War II ended, I went to New York, the United States from India.
Q: Why did you decide to go to India at that time?
Chung: At that time, I just finished my high school. My father asked me to go to India and helped my brother-in-law in India. So, I went there, to India. Besides, at the time, the Japanese invaded China and waged a war in China.
Q: What did you do in India?
Chung: I went to India and worked at my brother-in-law’s leather factory. Later on I worked for an agency and came to the United States in 1949.
Q: How was life in India?
Chung: Life in India, well… For the Chinese there, besides leather factories, they operated lumber yards, import and export companies, grocery stores, almost every kind of business…with daily wages ranged from about four to five dollars a day. At that time, during war time, many ships stationed in India and could not embark their journeys. Because of that, many sailors and Chinese people had to [temporarily stay] in India.
Q: Among the Chinese in India, were they mainly comprised of people from Canton or Hakka?
Chung: They were mainly Cantonese.
Q: Ok. Mr. Chung, I’d like to know, when you were in Mainland China…How was your family? Could you please talk about your family? How many family members were there in your family?
Chung: My family? My parents passed away, and so were my eldest brother and my other brothers and sisters. But, I have a son and grandchildren in mainland China.
Q: Ok. What did you expect when you first come to the United States?
Chung: When I first came… This was how I came to the United States. I originally intended to return to my hometown. However, when I was staying in United States, the communist was fighting with Kuomintang in mainland China, and September 18th incident [signify the beginning of Japanese invasion] broken out. Hence, I was stuck in the United States and could not return to China. [I wanted to return to China but the Communist had already crossed the river and occupied the mainland.]
Q: That is to say, during your boat ride…?
Chung: Yes, initially I decide to go to Hong Kong from the United States. But since the Communists already went south from the river and occupied the mainland, I stayed here and didn’t return.
Q: Was it easy to enter the United States?
Chung: It was not so easy. I bought ship tickets back in India... It was not so easy. [I only intended to wait here until the war was over, so I stayed in New York.]
Q: When did you come to the United States?
Chung: In 1949.
Q: Did you live in Chinatown then?
Chung: When I first came, I worked in a restaurant. My friend referred me to work as a waiter in the restaurant. After that, I came to work in Chinatown and worked as a secretary, later the president of Hakka Association.
Q: That is to say, you did not work in Chinatown from the very beginning? Where were you…?
Chung: Initially, I learned to be a waiter in a Chinese restaurant [on Long Island] and later worked [formally] as a waiter.
Q: Where was the restaurant?
Chung: The restaurant [that I worked later on] was in New Jersey.
Q: Were there a lot of Chinese people in New Jersey?
Chung: Oh, only very few. However, we only worked there. Every week we returned to New York.
Q: How did you go back, with……?
Chung: We had a car. The restaurant picked us up by the car. When we had our day-off, we came back to New York by car.
Q: There were no long haul buses [in Chinatown] as we have now, right?
Chung: No, it wasn’t that convenient.
Q: Okay, Mr. Chung, what was your first impression when you came to the United States?
Chung: When I first came, I thought the United States was quite good. There’s plenty of freedom. So long as you did not break the law and not do any harm to others, you can do whatever you want. It was relatively free and that was good. Especially when mainland China had a civil war and we were not able to return. I had no choice but to stay here.
Q: Was it the first time you were involved in the restaurant business?
Chung: At the beginning, I started as a waiter. Then I ran my own restaurant.
Q: Oh, you ran a restaurant?
Chung: Yeah, I worked in the Hakka Association as a secretary and later as its president. I also opened stores: florist, café, and later opened my restaurant.
Q: Okay. When did you finally move to Chinatown and live there?
Chung: I lived in Chinatown all the time. That is to say, apart from the time working as a waiter in New Jersey, I lived in Chinatown all the time.
Q: How was Chinatown back then?
Chung: The Chinatown in New York was sparsely populated and not as busy as in Hong Kong. It was already considered busy when there were eight to ten people walking on the streets. Now both sides of the street are full of pedestrians. [Now is much more crowded than before.]
Q: How big was Chinatown? How many streets were there?
Chung: The old Chinatown was comprised of Mott Street, Bayard Street and Mulberry Street. The Italians lived on Canal Street. Later on, Chinatown expanded from Mulberry to Canal Street, then to Houston Street. The development has been more rapid during the past ten to twelve years. Now, the Chinese store signs are everywhere. Chinese are everywhere.
Q: Mr. Chung, what was the main group of immigrants in Chinatown?
Chung: At that time, it was in 1962 when President Kennedy said China had an exodus of refugees. He increased the immigrant quota to 25,000. Hence, 25,000 people arrived. We had record of it, since the National Chinese Welfare Association organized the arrangements [according to President Kennedy’s Act]. An [annual] quota of 25,000 [immigrants] was assigned to the Asian countries, including China. The same quota remained until now.
Q: Were Cantonese the main group of immigrants?
Chung: At the beginning, they were mainly Cantonese. But now, there are people come from everywhere, especially folks from Fujian.
Q: Did you anticipate that Chinatown would undergo such a rapid development?
Chung: I did not expect it back then. The government and some property developers wanted to demolish the Division Street. But they did not do it in the end. Instead, the government encouraged renovation, and offered loans to residents to fix the apartments. That was what happened.
Q: When was that?
Chung: That was the year 1972.After that, the president was Janson (Johnson) and launched the anti-poverty project.
Q: Was Division Street mainly occupied by the Chinese?
Chung: Back then, Division Street was nicknamed “Hat Selling Street”. The Jewish sold women’s clothing and hats on both sides of the street. The Chinese did not know the real name [of the street] and just called it the “Hat Selling Street”. People knew it was the place to buy hats, so they kept calling it as the “Hat Selling Street”.
Mrs. Chung: They sold clothing too.
Q: Break here?
Photographer: Go ahead.
Q: Mr. Chung, How long did you work for the first restaurant?
Chung: I worked there for over a year. Then I came back to work as a secretary [for Hakka Association].
Q: For Hakka Association?
Chung: I worked as a secretary for Hakka Association for a little while. Then I worked for other restaurants.
Q: Were there many Hakka people?
Chung: At that time, the Hakka people... There were a few hundreds of us, Hakka people.
Q: Ok, Mr. Chung. In 1950s, did immigrants mainly speak Cantonese?
Chung: [They were] Mainly Cantonese speakers. In 1950s, since a lot of Chinese became U.S. soldiers and obtained permanent residence. So they went back [to China] and got married. Then more people came [to the United States]. So there came a lot of people from everywhere, not only the Cantonese, but also Chinese from Shanghai and many more from the other provinces.
Q: For Chinatown residents who spoke different dialects, were there any communication problem, in Chinatown?
Chung: It was like…this. In the old days, most people spoke their own local dialects, such as Toishanese and Cantonese. So for people who spoke northern dialects, they had to write things down when they went shopping, since the [store owner] had no time to listen to them. These people even spoke Cantonese with a heavy accent, sometimes they said, as a joke: “You, Cantonese people are discriminatory against us, Northerners. When it came to shopping, you would rather serve others who spoke Cantonese, even though we are here first.” For people who were doing business, time is precious. If you can speak [their languages], the store owners could hand you the things right away. But if you can’t, you had to write it down, and it took time for them to read, so, gradually, they only served those who spoke their dialects and not the Northerners. In fact, they just wanted to do business quicker, didn’t want to waste time.
Q: The northern dialect means Mandarin?
Chung: It depends, some people spoke Mandarin, others could speak Cantonese – that could also be called the dialect.
Q: Oh, really?
Chung: So northern dialects mean, the language you spoke to the northerners. Now, most of us speak Mandarin.
Q: In those years, I remembered you mention that, Chinese movies dubbed in Mandarin were very popular?
Chung: Mandarin became a popular dialect in 1960s, since many immigrants who came from mainland China and Taiwan spoke Mandarin. Gradually more people spoke Mandarin. Also, at that time, everybody loved to watch movies dubbed in Mandarin and fewer people watched Cantonese movies. Everybody loved to watch Mandarin movies – they could learn the dialect at the same time and entertain themselves. So the movies really helped to promote the dialect in Chinatown…in terms of learning the language.
Q: Mr. Chung, I’d like to know, remembered you mention the grand opening of the building on Division Street? When was that?
Chung: The building on Division Street…the building of the association for Hakka people, the Tsung Tsin Association was opened in 1953. In 1951, we started the renovation and by October 10th, 1953, the Tsung Tsin Association was ready to be opened.
Q: Mr. Chung, I’d like to know, you mentioned operated various businesses. Actually which one did you prefer most? Or were there challenges in all the industries?
Chung: At that time, the industries for Chinese were restaurants and laundromats. Next came the garment factories. There were not that many garment factories in the 50s. In the 60s, gradually there were more garment factories. So most of the women among the new immigrants could work in the garment factories, it helped many families to make a living. Since the Chinese immigrant needed a job, and his wife would help out by taking another job [as a garment worker].
Q: So you opened a restaurant and what els?
Chung: I opened a restaurant, a florist and a café.
Q: Did you open the café at the same time?
Chung: Yes, I had a spacious store front, so I divided it into two parts, split it into a florist on one side and a café on the other side.
Q: Where was the store?
Chung: On Division Street, right underneath Tsung Tsin Association- where the Hakka Association used to be. I worked there as a secretary. Since at that time, not that many people would rent a store front and do business. There were not that many people like that.
Q: If they did not rent store front, were they peddling on the street?
Chung: No, they were no peddling on the streets. It was only within the last decade that the peddlers started selling products on the streets.
Q: Mr. Chung, I’d like to know. Besides the Hakka Association, were you involved in any other community work?
Chung: Besides the Hakka Association?
Q: Did you involve in community work, such as….?
Chung: Yes, I did. I worked for Lin Sing Association, the Lin Sing Association of Eastern coast of the United States.
Q: What position did you hold?
Chung: I was the president.
Q: When was that?
Chung: I was [the Lin Sing Association] president in 1968. I became the president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) in 1964. In 1968, I was the president of the Lin Sing Association. Then in 1972 and again in year 2000, I was elected as the president of Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.
Q: Mr. Chung. Could you please tell us, in different era, what were the different problems that Chinatown were facing. For example, in 1960s when you were the CCBA president, what were the needs you thought need to be addressed?
Chung: Oh, in 1960s, at that time, the restaurant business of the Chinese was thriving. So did the garment factory and they could also work in the laundromats. So the hand-laundry was phrased out and its business diminished. As we just said, there were garment factories… and gradually there were more garment factories.
Q: Did Chinatown face any problem that need to be addressed too, in 1960s?
Chung: It was hard to say. CCBA had many responsibilities and it couldn’t accomplish everything. A that time, in the 60s… actually in the 50s, we had to fundraise to gather capital to build the building of CCBA…
Q: That’s now [the existing building]…?
Chung: We collected over $900,000 for this building at 62 Mott Street. We gathered almost one million dollars. So, the building was completed in 1962.
Q: Oh, in the beginning…..?
Chung: We moved in, between1962 to 1964 that we moved in there. Initially, we didn’t work at that office, we used the office of Lin Sing Association. But by the time I became the president, we moved in [the new building] to work. I bought all the furniture and other items. We moved in there to operate the CCBA till this date.
Q: You were the first president who worked in the new CCBA building?
Chung: Yes. That was also the first time I became the CCBA president.
Q: When you first became the president, did you have any plan to improve Chinatown during your 2-year term?
Chung: At that time, think about it…. If you want to accomplish something, you need financial support, especially for concrete measures. I helped whenever I could, within my capacity.
Chung: If you didn’t have financial support, you couldn’t say…you couldn’t push too far.
Q: Did it take you a long time to fundraise for the building?
Chung: It took us several years. Fund raising began in 1955, in 1955 we started the fundraising campaign.
Q: Was the donation mainly from Chinese immigrants?
Chung: All the Chinese immigrants and soldiers made contributions. We had donors from San Francisco, and from the mid-region such as Chicago, and from Los Angeles, Boston, etc. People from all the places sent in their donations. Therefore, we called the building Zhong Hua Da Lou [Building of the Chinese].
Q: Ok, shall we take a break here?
Photographer: Okay, go ahead.
Q: Mr. Chung, could you share some stories from your childhood in mainland China?
Chung: I went to Singapore with my father when I was seven. We lived there for one year. Then we moved to Malaysia. My father ran a lumber business there with his partners. I went to school there until I was a teenager and returned to China. After I went back to China…I graduated from high school when I was 17. Then I went to India, at the time, Japan invaded China and the “Lu Gou Bridge incident” occurred, so we fled to India.
Q: Mr. Chung, you spent your life in several places. Where would you consider as a “home”? Which place gives you the feeling as your homeland?
Chung: Home, how to say? Oh, home. To tell the truth, Southeast Asia was hot and filthy, it had lots of…garbage. Unless you lived in the residential area of the white people, it would be much cleaner. But Singapore was pretty good, Singapore was very clean. But within the Republic of Malaysia, since we lived in the mountains with my uncle there to collect rubber…As a kid, I wandered around with other children. Apart from going to school, we had nothing to do. So I went back to China when I was a teenager, finished secondary school, then went to India, where my brother-in-law lived.
Q: How was the Mei county in Guangzhou like at that time? What kind of town was it?
Chung: Mei country in Guangdong. Mei county itself was a town. In the old days, our Mei county was not so prosperous. But now, it developed very well. The areas where the fields used to be, are now covered with buildings, they used to be fields. At the same, many bridges were built. In around 1937, the Meijiang Bridge was built, once the Meijing Bridge was built, they started to build other bridges.
Q: Was Mei county an industrial town or an agricultural town?
Chung: An agricultural, agricultural, agricultural town. But now we don’t have that much agricultural land left, we had lots of mountains, not enough flat lands.
Q: Were there many people Mei county move out, migrated to other places?
Mr. Chung: Yes, many, many of them [left]. Many of our Hakka people left for the army or become merchants, so they all left to do business. The women stayed home and worked in the fields.
Q: Ok, take a break here?
Q: Mr. Chung, I’d like to know, in the 60s, was illegal immigrants a serious problem in 1960s?
Chung: It was like this, in 1960s, illegal entry was common, but we shouldn’t say it was serious.
Those who came to the United States were fleeing from political upheavals in China. They couldn’t live, so they had to flee and boarded on the ships to the United States or other places. Once they landed in the United States, they stayed here to live. Therefore, at that time, the Immigration and Naturalization Services would come to arrest a whole lot of people. I was the president of CCBA at the time, so I worked together with others from the National Chinese Welfare Association and their committee members, and attorneys to…
Q: Let’s take a break.
Chung: Where were we before?
Q: The problem of illegal immigration in 1960s...
Chung: Yes, illegal immigration. So that way, many of us Chinese
opened restaurants and we needed many of those immigrants who landed
ashore to work in the kitchens. So, when [immigration enforcement
officers] arresting these workers, we would have nobody to work in
the kitchens, nobody. If you hire somebody else [i.e. Americans],
there may a language barrier, it won’t work. So we went down to
the headquarter of the Immigration and Naturalization Services in
Washington D.C., and to the Congress and pleaded for them. We met
with congressmen and told them, “could we allow them to stay in
the country temporarily, since they [fled] because of political
upheavals in China and there’s no way they could live there.
That’s why they fled to here.”
I said…you Americans put emphasis on humanitarianism, democracy and freedom, and I said: “I hope they can stay here.” A congressman said, jokingly, “Mr Chung, you should ask your men to marry our girls, the American girls, that will solve all the problems. Once they are married, they can become citizens.” That was a joke.
Q: Was it easy to convince those officials in the beginning?
Chung: We, in the old days, tried to convince them and they sympathized with these people. Look, even him, president Kennedy would allow so many people into the country [through amnesty], they really sympathized with these immigrants. So he said, “How about this, we give you a five-year period. He can stay in the country, by the time he stayed here for the fourth year, he would have earn enough money by then. He could then go to Hong Kong or other places to make a living.” So this way, he said, “They could come in again and stay for four years, when it reaches the fourth year, we will send them away again.” It was like that.
Q: Did they call the document a “work authorization” card, like the one they issue now?
Chung: There was no work authorization [card]. Actually, the Immigrant and Naturalization Services would issue a document and state the [length] of his stay and whether it was already expired. The paper would also state whether he was allowed to stay in the country with a parole.
Q: Actually, did you know how many people benefit from this new policy, did you make a head count?
Chung: I did not document that, how do you calculate the number? I would say, in the past the officers would deport groups of four hundred to five hundred people. We would negotiate with the congressmen according to the number of immigrants who were arrested.
Q: So, the first time you lobbied for four to five hundred people. How many after that?
Chung: I don’t know how many after that. We would met with them and ask them not to deport anymore people. So they would stop and would not deport any people temporarily.
Q: Mr. Chung, I’d like to know, when the first time you… became the president of CCBA in 1960,
apart from this policy that benefited many Chinese people here, could you please talk about other tasks you accomplished during your term at CCBA? For example, you mentioned that there was a school?
Chung: Other accomplishments in 1960s. Do you mean our elementary and high school?
Chung: [We offer] Chinese classes, to teach Chinese. Even the captain of the Fifth precinct came over, the policemen came here to learn Chinese.
Q: Oh really? Where do the classes take place?
Chung: The school is in the upper floors of our CCBA building.
Q: How many students are there? At that time, how many students….
Chung: Students? There were about 2000 of them.
Q: That many?
Chung: Now we have more than 3000 students.
Q: The elementary and high school combine together?
Q: Do you have anything to add on the things you have done in 1960s?
Chung: What about 1960s?
Q: Do you want to add anything, perhaps other accomplishment of CCBA?
Chung: What, what do you mean by that?
Q: Let’s talk about 1970s, when you served the second term as the president of CCBA. Was the building of Confucius Plaza your biggest project?
Chung: In 1970s, the Confucius Plaza project. It started all because of Mr. Luo Jinshui [aka Luo Deming]. He read from the newspaper that the city government has a lot…for the Chinese to build residential buildings. Therefore, once he saw that, he applied for it. In order to apply, he had to set up Hua Yuan Company. But when he went and applied for it [they required] a credit report and had to them how long the company has to be established. He said the company was new. Then they [the officials] said: “If your company is new, how can you convince us that it’s reliable?” So in that case, they said: “Why don’t you go back and see if there’s a huge association or organization can represent you in this matter?” Therefore, Mr. Luo came to meet me and I called for a committee meeting at CCBA. Several of us met with then New York city mayor Lindsay and he approved the project. He said, “If it’s CCBA, of course it will work.” And Lindsay talked to other commissioners as well. I talked to the mayor, and he agreed to us and let CCBA work on the project. He was confident that we could do it. Therefore, we had a meeting at CCBA, after the meeting and passed on the project to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York. There are 60 organizations under the umbrella of CCBA and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York is one of them, and also the biggest one, that’s why we gave it to them.
Q: Actually, was it right that Confucius Plaza was specially built for elderly and not for the other age groups?
Chung: It was not only for the elderly, but for the middle income group, middle income. Those with middle income, not necessarily for the elderly people. Initially, we wanted to build residential units for the elderly, but there was no appropriate location. We planned to acquire the sport at 110 Henry Street. We bought it but sold it later on because it was too small and too old. The plan did not realize.
Q: When was the Confucius Plaza built?
Chung: Confucius Plaza was built in 1927, 27 [actually 1973], from 1973 to 1974 and finished in 1975. We moved in and lived here in December of 1975.
Q: Was it easy to gather funds to build this……?
Chung: The capital was loans from the federal, state and city government. We have to pay back the loan in 50 years.
Q: Oh, a 50-year term loan?
Chung: Also some of the loan was from the Chinese operated banks, such as the former Jing Rong Ying Hang, United Oriental Bank. The funds were mainly from bank loans.
Q: How much is the rent for an apartment?
Chung: Um…[monthly rent of an apartment is about 200 dollars]
Q: How much was the mortgage?
Chung: Um… [The building management paid for the mortgage. The tenants paid the rent.]
Q: If I pay for the mortgage for an apartment, how much would that be?
Chung: How much? A middle income tenant used to pay monthly rent of $283.
Q: Is your rent expensive now?
Chung: Oh, here? For an apartment, for an apartment, we pay at least $200 for this apartment.
Q: Per month?
Chung: Per month. The government subsidizes part of it.
Q: Half of it is subsidized. How many apartments are there in Confucius Plaza?
Chung: Over 700 units. The sum we just mentioned is for the mortgage. Oh actually the money was a loan from the federal government, not from the bank. Actually the Chinatown Day Care Center at that time was funded by loans from Jing Rong Ying Hang and Chinese American Bank.
Q: Was housing a serious problem in Chinatown back then?
Chung: Housing, housing was a problem but was not as serious as it is now. Now, not have many apartments are available. In the past, even though there was a shortage but one could still find an apartment if you searched for it. Now, that’s impossible.
Q: Take a break here?
Q: Mr. Chung. Now, let’s talk about the 9/11 incident. You actually witnessed 9/11, didn’t you?
Chung: Yes, at that time when 9/11 happened, at around 8:40a.m., the first building was hit by the plane hijacked by the terrorists. I saw it in Confucius Plaza, I saw the thick smoke coming out from the buildings. But I did not think it was done by the terrorist and thought it was accidentally hit by a plane. Soon after, the second plane hit the building…
[In Hakka dialect- Mr. Chung asked Mrs. Chung not to interrupt.]
Q: Were you in CCBA or at home when this happened?
Chung: I was downstairs [at Confucius Plaza]. I was about to go somewhere and saw the scene as soon as I came out of the building?
Q: You mean at the Confucius Plaza?
Chung: Yes, I saw it. Then I tried to use my cell phone to call, but it didn’t work. Some of my friends with whom I was supposed to go to a place together came, he also said his cell phone did not work either. We did not know what goes wrong. Then, the people walked slowly to our direction, from World Trade Center to Chinatown. More and more people walked [to Chinatown], like a wave of people. They walked uptown to the 10-something streets.
Q: What action came to your mind when 9/11 happened, what did you want to do?
Chung: When 9/11 happened, I went back to the office and pondered on that. I wasn’t quite sure what happened. At that time, the planes…and the heavy smoke, the smoke slowly blew towards Chinatown. I couldn’t figure out how serious was the loss, not clear about it. So the next day, it turned out that the incident was very serious, because many policemen, national guards were everywhere, at the intersections of streets and set up road blockades. They blocked the streets and would not allow people to cross them, unless you show them your I.D. to show that you live there. You could show them your I.D. and they would let you in. If you didn’t have any I.D., you couldn’t go through. So many residents complained: “We don’t have any status [i.e. they are illegal immigrants] and you won’t let us in.” So I phoned the captain at the fifth precinct and asked him to co-operate with me. He said: “How about this, as long as they tell them [the policemen] where they live, for those who don’t have any I.D., I can offer some documents.”
So, it made the situation a lot more convenient. For those who were [in Chinatown] to deliver goods, if they had a signed paper- the approval from the fifth precinct saying they were doing business in the area, his truck could go pass the streets. Therefore, it made it easier. The situation was so chaotic and very tensed. The streets were empty, like a dead city. No pedestrians, not a soul on the streets. So some people from other countries would call me and inquire: “What’s happening over there?” Sometimes I would tell them, since luckily the telephones at CCBA were working, they all worked. So…
Q: Only the phones at CCBA worked and others were out of order?
Chung: I called for an emergency committee meeting at CCBA. We agreed that CBA donate $50,000 and asked other community agencies, store owners, the Chinese public to donate money for disaster relief. That was to say, those affected by 9/11 would get help. So, in total, we collected more than $300,000. Through public appeal at the radio stations, we raised $2 million. Exactly how much [in total] I could not remember.
Q: That was a lot.
Chung: The radio stationed also donated a lot of money. We presented the donation to the state governor. We gave $250,000 to September 11th fund. We also gave donations to the police, emergency medical staff and other medical services. We also gave it to the Red Cross. We gave away more than $300,000 in total.
Q: Did all the relief work operate inside the CCBA building?
Chung: Yes, that was for collecting donations. Elaine Chao, the Secretary of U.S. Department of Labor from the federal government, also sent some of her staff to us. The State government, city government also sent workers to us. Legal advisors also came. Verizon the phone company, the Red Cross, and an agency called FEMA also came to us. So we gave them office space to work in the building of CCBA. Everyday thousands of people came in and out of the CCBA building.
Q: In order to rebuild Chinatown, did the government offer any funds to help Chinatown?
Chung: To rebuild Chinatown, we had two funding. To revitalize Chinatown, as we Chinese keep saying, the business plummeted and was hit hard. So we advertised in Daily News, every Friday we placed an advertisement, it costs $40,000, only for an advert. Besides, we made a sign[age], a sign[age]…that didn’t cost any money. It was given by an architect, he gave it to us. To revitalize Chinatown, we staged lion dances, lion dance every week, and hired people to dance, all that cost money.
Q: That was mainly for promoting tourism in Chinatown?
Chung: Yes, to promote tourism in Chinatown. Elaine Chao, the secretary of U.S. Labor Depart came here twice. The last time she visited, she gave $1 million funding for job training services to agencies such as the Chinatown Manpower Project, Asian American For Equality, Chinese-American Planning Council and others. The $1 million was for that purpose.
Q: From secretary Elaine Chao?
Chung: Yes, secretary Elaine Chao.
Q: Mr. Chung. How did 9/11 affect Chinatown? Can you tell us more about that?
Chung: Oh. Chinatown was dead and had no business at all for a few days. The impact was huge, the loss was great… at that time, it was of utmost importance that…anyway, we all said. A few stores closed down because of 9/11.
Q: 9/11 happened more than two years ago. How do you find the progress of rebuilding Chinatown?
Chung: To rebuild Chinatown… the new CCBA president, Mr. Ng, has continued the works. We initiated a good beginning and that was very good, we are all working together to revitalize Chinatown. To revitalize Chinatown, we have to take one step at a time, gradually, Chinatown will regain its glory. On the other hand, we have to work on tourism, to promote Chinatown and attract more tourists to visit here. And for garment factory industry, it will be best if the government can put in more effort to support it, to revitalize the garment factory industry. Now, the garment factory has been sluggish, I know many workers are out of work now and need to get social welfare from the government.
Q: Do you think there’s any other area in Chinatown that needs to be addressed immediately? In general, is there anything that needs to be improved?
Chung: In order to improve that, it will be best if the housing unit would be allowed to be built higher. Now the tallest building can only be a seven- story one. It is better to build a more than twenty- story building and the streets could be widened. We used to have a plan, a proposal to revitalize Chinatown. We found somebody to draft the proposal, there was a proposal. Also, to expand tourism and also to help the garment factory industry. Also, we need to build more housing…and to repave the roads, to widen the roads. That has been our goals, these are our goals.
Q: Mr. Chung, after 9/11 happened, has it changed your perspective on the United States?
Chung: Oh, this 9/11..for us, Chinese people, we have been very united this time. So, it had a huge influence on us, we Chinese, were much more united. The loss to the United States was so huge, but she [the country] also tried to find ways to help us…such as the losses… and now, there is LMD[C]
Q: LMDC [Lower Manhattan Development Council]?
Chung: LMDC, it offered financial aids…for example, the alley…
Q: So, you…?
[Tape 009- side1B]
Chung: Yes, yes, yes. The United States is the best in the world. Where else can you find a better place than here? Especially for the elderly people. Elderly people enjoy a lot of welfare here.
Q: That means, you are very happy with your life here?
Q: Take a break here?
Q: Mr. Chung, many associations and organizations in Chinatown are divided into the leftists and the rightists and would not communicate with each other. Since you have been in Chinatown for so long, can you come up with ways to solve this political divide?
Chung: Um…in Chinatown, those people from mainland China came here to make a living, right? Actually we could all live in peace and work together. But at that time, the leadership of mainland China held different ideas against overseas Chinese, and they persecuted many Chinese. That really changed the climate. So these people, deep down in the heart, felt the Communism was scary, like a terror. But, with different generations here… they gradually changed their attitude and realized that they shouldn’t feel shameful of those things [or incidents] happened in the past. So that was the change. Therefore, in 80s to 90s, the tension was relaxed. They would not boycott each other, and could tolerate each other sometimes. At least they would just refuse to talk to each other, and wouldn’t boycott each other like they did before. It didn’t happen much. Therefore, I, when I became the president for the third time [at CCBA], I felt that we are all Chinese, the same people, above all, we are all brothers when we are abroad, so we should make peace. Very often, for instance, at the time of Grand Street closure, we went up to the MTA and talked to them, and we had meetings, and even brought people over there to stage protests- when that happened, no matter they were leftists or rightists, everybody joined in unison and negotiated the issue. When CCBA held the meetings, they all came. So, gradually, the atmosphere became less tensed and the hostility died down. So, right now, they would contact each other, and like that, and changing the views they used to hold at each other
Q: Mr. Chung, now that Grand Street subway station has just reopened, do you expect more improvements on Chinatown traffic and other areas from the government? Such as [the closure of] Park Row?
Chung: In fact, we should be… when I was [the president of CCBA], I said that the government, the police car park should stay open and allow the public to use it. Once the car park was closed, it would have an adverse impact on businesses in Chinatown. People from all the places used to be able to park, now we have not one place to park. All the parking spaces on Mulberry Street, Bayard Street, Mott Street are now used by the government employees from the Justice department and the police precinct. We, the residents, have nowhere to park at tall. The government should tackle the problem, they should build a bigger car park, the government officials should be allocated a specific spot to park, and those spots should be given back to the residents. That would be the proper measure. For Park Row [closure], we were working on it and still working on it now. They have to re-open it. But now, the mayor has been dragging on the issue and won’t re-open it. Once it’s re-opened, there will be a lot more businesses. When the roads are blocked, the traffic would be chaotic, so people won’t even want to come into Chinatown for dinners.
Q: Mr. Chung, where is the police car park you mentioned?
Chung: It’s right behind here. That is, is that called Precinct Plaza? Or the Federal Plaza?
Q: Is that where the city hall is?
Chung: It is nearby, next to the Police Plaza.
Q: We take a break here.
Q: Mr. Chung, I’d like to know. I know you were the president of CCBA, which is the largest organization in Chinatown. Sometimes you have to welcome officials and politicians from mainland China or Taiwan. Have you ever feel you were in an… awkward position?
Chung: For this question…well, for politicians from Taiwan, we treat them the same, we have connections with them, there’s no problem at all. For those from mainland China, we used to have no contact, no communication and no… But in recent years, mainland China has become more open-minded, so there has been contact and communication [between us] sometimes. So long as we don’t touch on politics and only discuss issues related to the status of overseas Chinese, things like that. They [the mainland officials] also know that we are not in an easy position to talk about that [politics]. A few years ago, when I went to mainland China, I have been to Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and other places, everything was good… with those cities.
Q: Would you consider strengthening the relationship? Especially the economic ties?
Chung: This is a mutual, and natural development. China needs gain the trust and help from overseas Chinese. In the past, they called overseas Chinese ‘foreigners’. Now they changed the attitude. They call the overseas Chinese as Gui Qiao [returned Chinese] when they return to their homeland. Therefore, she will gradually change. We, hope that she [mainland China] can at least learn half of what U.S. is doing, and have freedom. Let trade flourishes, allows free trade, don’t set up all kinds of restrictions. Therefore… we have been here in the U.S. for decades, we are used to being free, so if you want to exert control…therefore, when a lot of people who just arrive in the U.S., they would say the U.S. is no good, but once they stay longer and get used to the lifestyle here, they will enjoy the goodness of the U.S. lifestyle. They will know that the U.S. is full of freedom, something they could not comprehend before.
Q: Mr. Chung, what are the pictures in your hands?
Chung: This one is taken at the grand opening of the Grand Street subway station. Because in 2001, 2001, the Manhattan Bridge had to be repaired and there was roadwork with the D line at the Grand Street subway station. Therefore, we went up to the MTA and tried to negotiate with them, we want them to shorten the closing period. At that time, they said it would be closed for four to six years, we all felt that that’s far too long. For those people, residents and nearby businesses, it would cause so much inconvenience. You should shorten the closure, to two or three years. Therefore, after two and a half years, about two and a half years, it was completed. And a few days ago it reopened, that was the 22nd of this month it reopened.
Q: Okay, I see.
Photographer: Anything else? Go ahead.
Q: Mr. Chung, I noticed there are many pictures you took with celebrities in your house. Can you tell us more about these pictures?
Q: This is Madame Soong Mayling, right?
Chung: Yes. And this is me.
Q: Oh, this is you!
Chung: This is Madame Soong Mayling and this is ambassador Zhou Shukai. This is Soong T.V.[Madame Soong’s brother].
Q: Oh, Soong T.V.. When did you meet them?
Chung: In 1972.
Q: She come to New York, right?
Chung: She came to New York to treat her skin problem, for skin treatment.
Q: Oh, okay. What’s your impression of Madame Soong?
Chung: She’s very elegant and was a true first lady of a country. When she helped the president Chiang Kai-shek and attended all those meetings, such as the Cairo conference, she contributed a lot to China’s diplomacy. For example, her war efforts against Japanese invasion, she came to the Congress and gave a speech; came to the Chatham Square and spoke in front of the overseas Chinese here…she took the America by storm. A Chinese woman, could be so selfless and went abroad to resist the Japanese invasion… Therefore, we all have high respect of her, she is a truly great person in this world.
Q: She passed away this year. Did you directly….?
Chung: She passed away this year. I paid my respect to her in the church and family held services, we attended the services.
Q: There was a service for her in Chinatown…
Chung: A memorial service in a Catholic church in Chinatown.
Q: Okay, Mr. Chung, you have been to the home of Madame Soong, in upstate or uptown, right? Uptown?
Chung: Yes, uptown near 80-something street and the Fifth Avenue.
Q: At the time when you met with her, did she express her expectations of the overseas Chinese here?
Chung: That was a private visit, [it was arranged by] consulate general, Mr. Ye Guobin, who was a relative of her. He said to me, “Mr. Chung, I’ll bring you to visit Madame Chiang.” I gladly said yes. So we went together to visit Madame Soong. She was painting, drawing plum blossoms and orchids. She was not so old back then, in her 60s or 70s. She said, “I am learning to draw flowers now, what do you think?” I said her painting was very nice. Then I asked how she felt about the Chinese immigrants her. She said, “The Chinese immigrants contributed a lot to the country [China] during wartime, during the resistance of Japanese invasion, many donated money and joined the army.” She appreciated what the Chinese immigrants had done. She said she hoped more Chinese immigrants would visit Taiwan more often.”
Q: When did you meet her?
Chung: In 1972, the next day after I welcomed her at the airport.
Q: Take a break here?
Q: Mr. Chung, let’s talk about your family life?
Chung: Oh, at the moment, I am living with my wife here, two elderly. My son is till in China, he has a son, two grandchildren of ours. One of them, the eldest grandson married last December. So…when he [my son] wanted to come here, there’s no diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China, [the U.S.] hadn’t recognize China at the time, so there’s no way he could come over. By the time he could come, he is already running his own business and has no time to come. Now I’m old, what can he do…so still he hasn’t come here yet.
Chung: He sent money to me. That’s it.
Q: But deep in your heart, have you felt that the life in the United States would…?
Q: Mr. Chung, how many children do you have and how old are they?
Chung: My son? My children? He is in his 60s now.
Q: Oh, how many [children do you have]?
Chung: One. One son and two grandchildren. The grandchildren are now in their twenties. The eldest one married this, this year.
Q: Have they ever come and visit you? Meet you?
Chung: No, never. In the past, there’s no diplomatic tie between mainland China and the U.S., so when they have diplomatic relationship now, my son is running his business and has no time. Therefore, they still haven’t been here. I went back to China two years ago, I went to China with my wife and met them.
Q: So, they all live in Mei county in Guangdong? What’s their business?
Chung: My son is in the transportation industry and repairs vehicles.
Q: You have been in the United States for so many years, so you haven’t seen your son for a long time. Don’t you miss him?
Chung: We talk over the phone.
Q: Talking over the phone……
Chung: Write letters, talk on the phone and so on.
Q: In fact, a lot of people in China want to come to the United States. Since you have the chance, it’s kind of strange that, why your son…was it because your son was not willing to come? Or it doesn’t matter at all?
Chung: He wants to come but he is getting old. What can he do here? It will be hard to start all over again.
Q: Or maybe, if the grandchildren want, will your grandchildren come over here?
Chung: They want to come. But, let’s see, it all depends. First of all, they are still young and besides, they just graduated from college.
Q: What is your expectation from your family- your child and your grandchildren?
Chung: What kind of expectation… If he, he can take care of his family, that is good. If he can work in his homeland, it is good too. Let’s wait and see.
Q: Even when you talk to them over the phone, you would still miss them. Do you go to China often and visit them?
Chung: We’re planning to go this July or August if there is a chance. But it depends on our feet, whether we can walk or not. We both fell last year.
Q: Oh, really?
Chung: I fell down, downstairs at Confucius Plaza in April. I stayed at the hospital for a month. Now I walked slowly. She fell in September at Bowery.
Q: Oh, fell down at Bowery Street……
Q: Ok, stop here.
Chung: I don’t know what else to say.
Q: Now that you are retired, what do you usually do everyday?
Chung: Apart from going to the CCBA, I attend some social gatherings. Besides, I accompany my wife at home most of the time. To stay with my wife.
Mrs. Chung: I’m in my 80s now. Where else can I go?
Q: Mr. Chung. I’d like to know this, a lot of people say that there’s a long waiting list for people applying for housing units at Confucius Plaza, it’s very difficult to get in. Is that true?
Chung: Yes. It’s because there’re two to three thousand people on the waiting list for the Confucius Plaza.
Q: Waiting list?
Chung: So, it’s very difficult, it’s a long wait.
Mrs. Chung: Some wait even until the second generation.
Chung: Some of them if they do wait that long, they may [have it]…..
Q: If one has to wait, how long usually is the waiting time?
Chung: Some wait for twenty years.
Q: Twenty years? Then, you must feel you are the lucky one now?
Chung: No, actually we had the unit right from the beginning…It’s because, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce was a member of CCBA. So I filled out a form and of course [my application] was processed quickly. It wasn’t that emotional. They would notify you… At that time, a lot of people submit their applications, but in the end they didn’t want it. They said the units were expensive. At that time, the rent for other apartments were about fifty to sixty dollars, but [here, the rent is] seventy to eighty dollars for a unit. Now, [the rent for] our unit here is over two hundred dollars…
Q: They charged over two hundred dollars at that time?
Chung: Yes, even to this day, it’s still over two hundred dollars.
Q: Oh, the price hasn’t changed for all these years?
Chung: It used to be over two hundred fifty dollars, two hundred fifty dollars.
Q: And now the rent is?
Chung: It is now over two hundred eight dollars. The price has increased. An increase of five dollars, sometimes.
Q: Only a small increase after all those years? That…
Chung: The building has been subsidized by government. There’s government subsidized, with money from the federal, state and city governments.
Q: Mr. Chung, I’d like to know that, East Broadway has undergone rapid development. How was East Broadway like back then?
Chung: In the old days, East Broadway was occupied by Italians and other immigrants. There were not that many stores, and not even Chinese people. But after the 80s, or the 70s, gradually more people lived there, by the 80s, East Broadway was saturated. Most of the buildings are owned by the Chinese. In the old days, [the Chinese] rented their places there.
Q: Ok, Mr. Chung, do you have anything to add?
Chung: That’s about it. I cannot remember a lot of things.
Q: Okay. Don’t worry. Thanks for your time today.
Chung: Fine. You are very welcome.
[End of Session]
Chinatown Interview: Interview (zh)
<p>鍾僑征︰印度的生活呢﹐就…我們中國人來講呢﹐即是﹐有皮廠之外呢﹐有那些工廠呀、做木[材生意]呀﹐有那些做生意出入口呀﹐有那些… 各種鋪頭[有些人]做雜貨店買賣呀﹐都﹐ 那時候都好[每日工資大約] …四、五元的。那時人相當多﹐打仗的時候… 一打仗的時候呢﹐好多船停[泊]到印度呀[不能出海]﹐所以那些海員又多﹐所以我們中國人呢舊時相當多[暫時停留]在印度呀。</p>
<p>問︰Ok。 鐘先生我想問下﹐你在大陸的時候呢﹐你屋企… 可不可以講一下你屋企呀﹖你屋企有幾多人呀﹖</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰我當時來﹐經過… 我當時來美國是這樣的︰我本來想返鄉下﹐來到這兒﹐美國﹐因為剛剛在大陸又…中共又同國民政府軍隊打仗啦﹐所以發生九一一﹖ 戰事﹐<br>
<p>問︰那時的New Jersey 華人多不多﹖</p>
Canal街都是意大利那些人多。現在呢我們發‥ 中國人的唐人街呢發展到Mul...Canal街過去那邊﹐上去啦到Houston, Houston街上面去了。現在發展得相當快速啦。最近這十幾二十年來發展得更快﹐就到處呢我們中國人的招牌呀,那些中國人呀來來去去都是那麼多人﹐現在。</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰那時﹐七‥七二年以後﹐好似呢個Johnson 做總統﹐anti-poverty ﹐ anti- poverty 的時候。即係話反貧計劃﹐有一個反貧計劃那時候﹐anti-poverty 的時候。</p>
<p>問︰ Break here?</p>
鍾僑征︰Division 街的樓‥客家的樓‥崇正會的呢就一九五三年開幕‥五一年就拿過來裝修嘛﹐ 五三年十月十號開幕那個﹐崇正會的樓‥</p>
鍾僑征︰噢﹐六十年代呢﹐那時呢﹐那些中國人呢做生意﹐那些餐館業呀那時好旺﹐衣館又係可以做﹐又有laundromat 呀其他呢﹐所以衣館變成淘汰了。所以這生意少些。所以呢我們話頭先講﹐話車衣業呀﹐ 那兒又逐漸就… 衣廠多囉逐漸逐漸多…衣廠﹐車衣廠囉。</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰ 籌…就 建立的時候。係呀﹐籌了幾年啦。大概是五五年開首﹐一九五五年開首籌備籌款呀。</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰所有僑胞都‥軍人來捐款啦。三藩市我們都有人匯捐﹐中部呀 —中部 即是芝加哥呀、羅省呀、波士頓呀﹐各地都有捐款來。所以我們叫做中華大樓。</p>
<p>問﹕Ok, shall we take a break here?</p>
<p>攝影師︰ok go ahead。</p>
問﹕Ok, take a break here?</p>
他沒法子在哪兒生活﹐所以他出來的。所以我…你美國講人道主義、民主自由的﹐我話呢︰「希望你能夠留下來。」他有一個議長講笑﹐他說︰「Mr. Chung﹐唔該你marry我的女仔﹐美國的女仔便好囉﹐ 結婚便保留他身份囉。」講笑呀。</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰不是講專門老人﹐中等入息﹐middle income。中等入息﹐就唔係話俾老人。本來我們想話老人﹐找不到地方。找不到地方﹐本來Henry街有間一百一十一號﹐Henry 街買 左啦﹐終於買左啦。賣左﹐因為又唔係大間﹐又要夠…全舊裝修﹐又賣左﹐無用囉。</p>
<p>問︰Take a break here?</p>
<p>[客家話 - 鍾先生請鍾太不要插話。]</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰重振華埠呢﹐其實我們有兩個給錢囉﹐重振華埠我們即是舊時候話我們中國人的生意一落千丈﹐影響那麼大。便我們在Daily News賣‥逢禮拜五呀賣一日廣告﹐都花四萬幾銀囉﹐只是賣廣告呀。另外呢﹐做一個sign ﹐一個sign﹐那兒又…又‥就好在那個不用錢﹐他一個劃積的送給我們中華公所﹐他劃積的送給我們。但我們繁榮華埠呢﹐舞獅呀﹐每個週末舞獅呀﹐請人來跳舞呀﹐那些我們要花錢。</p>
<p>問︰Take a break here?</p>
<p>問︰鍾先生﹐譬如剛剛Grand街地鐵站重開啦﹐其實你有沒有希望政府或者其他華埠交通問題上可以改善呢﹖譬如Park Row 呀那些…</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰本來大家便要…我做的時候應該都話啦政府…警察局的停車場應該要俾番保留俾大家用。因為你一關閉停車場對華埠生意影響好大﹐因為各地來到在這裡可以停車嘛﹐現在你哪兒沒有地方停車﹐街上Mulberry 街、Bayard 街、 Mott 街那些—給法院呀、警察局給他們全部泊了。我們居民想停車哪兒買東西都無法子停車。所以就要政府本來應該改善﹐你應該呢做多個大停車場﹐你政府那些官員那些﹐應該給他一個地區泊車﹐這些街坊的應該你俾番街坊用﹐這才對。Park Row 呢我們在交涉﹐現在都一樣在交涉﹐<br>
<p>鍾僑征︰警察停車場在Federal Plaza 那兒。</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰就是後面就是呀。就是個個﹐個個是不是叫做 Precint Plaza ﹖不是叫Federal Plaza。</p>
<p>問︰we take a break here﹖</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰呢個呢﹐就是Grand Street 那個subway station grand﹐lead open 的相片﹐就是因為呢二零零一年的時候﹐二零零一年呀﹐就因為Manhattan 橋要修再修理﹐同埋Grand Street subway station 都要填D 線﹐所以呢就我們就向交通局去同它講數﹐請它修理時間縮短。那時候它講呢要四年到六年﹐我們都覺得你那麼長時間﹐那些﹐那些人﹐住客﹐附近的主客呢﹐好多來來去去的人呢好不方便呀﹐你應該縮短時間﹐兩年呀或者三年這樣。所以現在呢它終於兩年半﹐大概兩年半時間已經做好了。所以現在早幾日開幕﹐這個月二十二日就在這兒開幕。</p>
<p>攝影師︰Anything else? Go ahead。</p>
<p>問︰她來New York 是不是﹖</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰她來 New York﹐醫皮膚病﹐看皮膚的。</p>
<p>問︰ Take a break here?</p>
<p>鍾僑征︰係﹐因為孔子大廈有成二、三千人在 waiting list。</p>