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Shaoxing mourns loss of Hong Kong benefactor

ezhejiang.gov.cn| Updated: February 22, 2024 L M S

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Zhang Jie, based in Hong Kong, remains connected to Shaoxing, Zhejiang province. [Photo by Liu Yuping for Tide News]

Feb 18, typically a day of celebration during the Chinese New Year festivities, took on a somber tone in Shaoxing, particularly in the Shangyu district.

The community grappled with the loss of Zhang Jie, a well-known philanthropist from Hong Kong, who passed away suddenly at the age of 95 due to a heart attack.

Though Zhang lived quietly among mainland entrepreneurs in Hong Kong, his impact reverberated deeply in his hometown of Shangyu.

A significant portion of locals under 50 years old have benefited from Zhang's generosity in various ways, whether through scholarships, educational institutions he supported, or equipment for schools and sports.

On the morning of Feb18, locals gathered at Zhang's birthplace, an old house in Lianghu town, Shangyu, to pay their respects, laying flowers and bowing in homage. Nearby stand Tianxiang Elementary School and Zhang Middle School, both established through Zhang's contributions in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Despite facing financial hardships in his youth, Zhang left school early to support himself. He eventually found his way to Hong Kong, where he started from humble beginnings, taking on odd jobs before establishing a small grocery store and gradually building his success.

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Zhang runs his less than 6-square-meter grocery store in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. [Photo by Liu Yuping for Tide News]

In 1978, he leased a tiny storefront in Tsim Sha Tsui, scarcely 6 square meters in size, and began selling crabs, palm kernels, and tea eggs to make ends meet.

Despite his humble upbringing in Hong Kong, Zhang remained deeply committed to advancing education in his hometown.

In 1979, he generously donated a color television to Shangyu Middle School. At that time, color televisions were exceedingly expensive and rare in China. Over the ensuing years, he made regular visits to schools in Shangyu, offering aid wherever it was required, whether in erecting new structures or supplying essential equipment.

By the end of the 1980s, Zhang had allocated a total of 15 million yuan, financing the construction of 18 teaching facilities, 32 classrooms and dormitories, and libraries, while also establishing a fund exceeding 2 million yuan to support underprivileged students.

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Zhang (middle) donates 2 million yuan to an education development fund in Shaoxing. [Photo by Liu Yuping for Tide News]

In recent times, Zhang gradually retreated from public view. His final public appearance occurred in August 2023, when delegates from Shangyu journeyed to Hong Kong to commemorate his 95th birthday.

Reflecting on his life's journey, Zhang once said, "The key to a long life lies in sacrifice. I have devoted all the savings from my lifetime to bolstering education in my hometown, and I find solace in that. Perhaps longevity is the divine reward for such dedication."

Chen Qiuqiang, chairman of the Shangyu Scholars Research Association, aptly observed, "Just as the ceaseless currents of the Cao'e River endlessly flow on in our native land, the people of Shangyu will forever cherish the legacy of Zhang."