Hong Kong actress scandal

This post has been updated to correct the Ho family’s status in a proposed National Harbor casino.

ORIGINAL POST: Eric Hotung is variously described as a Hong Kong tycoon, financier and philanthropist. His grandfather was called “the richest man in Hong Kong.” His father founded the Hong Kong gold and silver exchange. And Hotung himself has both made large sums of money and devoted himself to many charitable endeavors, including a $5 million donation for the Eric E. Hotung International Law Center at the Georgetown University law school in downtown Washington. Active at age 86, nearly all of his words and deeds remain big news in Hong Kong, as we shall soon see.

In the mid-1990s, Hotung purchased the home of Sen. Edward Kennedy, on Chain Bridge Road in McLean, for $5.88 million, and his American wife Patricia Shea Hotung lived there with some of their eight children. So when Eric Hotung, in December 2009, trashed one of his sons in a number of Hong Kong publications, his part-time residence in McLean enabled that son to file a defamation suit against his father in Fairfax County Circuit Court, USA.

And after a three-day trial, a Fairfax jury ordered Eric Hotung to pay his son $1.2 million for the comments made in Oriental Daily, Sudden Weekly, East magazine and other Chinese-language outlets. Comments such as, “He is not my son!” and “Judging by his habits, he can’t possibly be a relative of mine” and “These kinds of people cannot be members of the Hotung family.”

The verdict was just the latest chapter in a riotous, high-dollar soap opera of forbidden love, a casino empire, rival family dynasties, blackmail, lawsuits, secret love children and a nasty celebrity divorce. If this was on TV, you would watch. And the fact that this chapter played out in a mostly empty Fairfax courtroom, and wound up with a verdict that Eric Hotung can probably pay with the change in the console of his yacht, is our little part of Chinese history.

Eric Hotung is the grandson of Sir Robert Hotung, an influential figure in Hong Kong who was knighted not once but twice by the British. His family owns whole streets in Hong Kong, Eric Hotung said in his deposition in the Fairfax case. Streets in Hong Kong tend to be worth a great deal of money.

Sir Robert Hotung had a brother named Ho Fook, whose grandchildren include Stanley Ho and his sister Winnie Ho, who have run a dominant casino empire in Macau for decades.

(UPDATE: MGM clarified Tuesday that the Hos, while partnering with MGM in Macau, are not partners in the National Harbor venture. The Macau partnership could still attract regulators’ attention, as The Post reported, but not because of any direct role in Maryland.)

The Hotung family evidently did not approve of the Ho family and their gambling, and made this clear to Eric, the family scion. But when Eric was 16 and first glimpsed his cousin Winnie Ho, “It was love at first sight, ” he told an interviewer in 2001. “She’s quite a beauty. It was a sad romance because my family opposed it, ” and Winnie Ho was forced to marry Mak Chi-wai instead.

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