Abby Choi’s Husband Opened Up, Slightly

In an interview with a Hong Kong paper, Chris Tam attempted to quell some rumours about his family and himself as “crown prince” of his now-sold family restaurant business, but he said little about his wife, her wealth, or her serious penchant for haute couture

Chris Tam with Abby Choi. Photo: wujie/Douyin

“I myself is a 內向 (neixiang) introverted person,” Chris Tam, the grieving husband of murdered and mutilated social media star Abby Choi Tin-fung (蔡天凤), said recently in a 专访 (zhuanfang or special/exclusive interview) with Hong Kong’s 星岛日报 (Sing Tao Daily), “I never know how to express my emotions.” It has been more than three months since the shocking death of his wife, and Mr Tam was finally able to go public with the press, sort of. It is not known if he initiated the interview with the paper or if he was contacted by the editors, but Mr Tam’s opening up came just days after the suspects in his wife’s killing appeared in court and their cases were adjourned to 31 July for to give the police more time to complete their investigation. What was he hoping to elucidate? This time, Mr Tam did not leave the speaking to others. As he explained, he, “in times of extreme pain, left to friends to face the media.” The friends have been mainly a mysterious 豹太 (baotai) or Madam Bao, a former insurance agent and known cat lover—now identified as Joey Wong H.W.—and her husband, Bernard Cheng.

Mr Tam, as we have noted before, is not known by his Chinese name. In the Sing Tao Daily report, he continued to be referred to as “谭仔「太子爷」Chris” or (literally) young Tam crown prince Chris. Even confirmed friends Ms Wong and Mr Cheng, who speaks on his behalf, call him Chris, not even 谭仔. While Hong Kong celebrities and stars do use a Western name, they are mostly refered to, in the local media, by their Chinese moniker (Andy Lau is 刘德华 or Lau Tak-wah, for example). In the rather brief article, there was no description of Mr Tam’s physical self or indication of him speaking to the reporter, face to face, and how he sounded. Despite the repeated association of him with his father’s successful and well-known rice noodle chain restaurant 谭仔云南米线 (Tamjai Yunnan Mixian, which was sold in 2017 to Japan’s largest operator of noodle shops Toridoll Holdings), Mr Tam played down his own social standing and importance, describing his life as “低调 (didiao)” or low-key.

He did not directly address the speculation of his family’s supposed wealth either. Rather, he said that he was born into an uncomplicated family (described by the paper as “简单朴素 [or simple and plain]”), not referring to their financial status and avoiding the common expression used to describe the Tams: 豪门 (haomen or rich/powerful families). His father, Mr Tam said, had the foresight to start a business, and preserved despite several failures. After Tamjai Yunnan Mixian was sold, the elder Tam placed the earnings in a trust fund, as well as invested in properties to let. The family’s income, therefore, comes from these investments, “nothing else”. Referring to being called a “富二代 (fuerdai or children of wealthy business folks)”, he said, he, too, needed a job: “I am presently helping my father with the rental of the properties, and the revenue that comes from this rental company, held by my father, is also my sole income.”

Chris Tam and Abby Choi in a wedding video. Screen shot: Douyin

He did he speak at length about his couture-wearing spouse, or how she became as famous as she was, only that he hasn’t been able to forget his “loving wife”, and promised to be “a good person and a good father”. Has he not been either while she was alive? When asked how he met Abby Choi, he said that he, initially, knew his wife’s first husband Alex Kwong Kong-chi (邝港智) when they were in middle school (he did not name the institution, but online chatter suggested that it was possibly Chan Shu Kui Memorial School that Mr Kwong supposedly attended). However, he did say that Mr Kwong “后来转校认识了Abby” or later changed schools and knew Ms Choi. He stated that subsequently he became acquainted with his wife through Mr Kwong, making no mention if, at that time, Mr Kwong and Ms Choi were already lovers, in school uniforms. There was no comment about the subsequent teenage marriage, or if he attended the couple’s wedding.

Neither did he speak of his relationship with Alex Kwong, especially after he married the latter’s ex-wife (did Mr Kwong know that they were dating after his divorce with Ms Choi?). There was not a squeak about the ex-husband’s alleged criminal past either. Or, the extent of their closeness as “one family” when children—four in total—from both fathers were reported to spend considerable time together. Or, what has been described as a “complicated” familial relationship between the Kwongs, the Chois and the Tams. There was no mention of the shocking actions of the alleged murderer of his wife or how she could have come to such a tragic fate. The fleeting mention of Mr Kwong seemed unstirred by anger or the need for justice to be served. Similarly, he did not address his perceived “closeness” to his mother-in-law, Zhang Yanhua (张燕花), also popularly known as 五姐 (wujie) or fifth sister. Numerous photographs of the two shared online showed he and his wife’s mother in poses that many considered “异常亲密 (yichang qinmi or unusually intimate)”.

One of the tattles he wanted to clarify was the speculation that the Tam family was involved in money laundering. Specifically, he pointed to Paomes Charitable Org (also known as 爱豹仕爱心慈善机构; the Facebook page, renamed as Abby & Paomes Charitable Org in memory of the deceased, was later deleted), to dispel the rumour that it is a cover to 洗黑钱 (xiheiqian) or launder money. Rather, he explained, it is a fund-raising body—supposedly co-founded by Ms Choi last October—that the FB introduction claimed to “donate 10 million yuan every year for the care of stray cats and dogs”. The charity is also linked to Joey Wong. She and Ms Choi reportedly shared a love for Asian leopard cats (and likely included Bengal cats), which may explain Ms Wong’s online handle Madam Bao—the bao (豹) in Chinese refers to the spotted carnivore. Chris Tam was emphatic that “our charity has never received any donations from my family [the Tams]”. And the main aim of the organisation was “to improve society’s treatment of the problems of stray animals”, and “it became our activity outside of the family.”

Pals in happier times. From left, Chris Tam, Abby Choi, Joey Wong, and Bernard Cheng. Photo: SCMP

There seemed to be a conscious effort to make clear the financial status of Paomes Charitable Org. Mr Tam pointed out that the organisation’s bank account was opened only in January this year, and just a month later, they had to pay a fall-below fee due to insufficient funds in the account. He claimed that there had not been expenses incurred and salary payouts were never made with 捐款 (juankuan) or contributions, definitely not from his family. There could, therefore, be no suspicion of money laundering or fraud. The application of charity status for the organisation was eventually halted because, after the “创伤(chuangshang)” or trauma, “some members [of the organisation] had to receive treatment for mental problems, and the decision then was to suspend the application.” He did not say why their Facebook page had to be permanently deleted if it was (re)named to honour his wife or to draw attention to the plight of strays, as was the original mission.

It is interesting that he mentioned Madam Bao, as well as Paomes Charitable Org. Was clearing the air about the organisation his wife co-founded also shedding light on the goodness of Madam Bao? And why did she need approval from the Tam family. The two friends of Abby Choi—Joey Wong and Bernard Cheng—have been described as “close” to the fashion influencer, to the extent that Ms Wong was “authorised” to speak on behalf of Chris Tam and Abby Choi, following the latter’s death last February. In fact, HK$1 million (about S$172,000) for information relating to the case was offered by Ms Wong, then only known as Madam Bao, shortly after the gruesome murder was discovered. She was among two other women who offered the same reward money. Other than what was put up monetarily, Ms Wong also provided significant details to the media regarding Ms Choi’s daily routine—who her drivers were (she had “several”) and who among them was tasked to pick the children of her first marriage from school. She also revealed that Ms Choi’s ex-brother-in-law Anthony Kwong Kong-kit (邝港杰), who was also her driver, was hired only during the Lunar New Year season. Her astonishing familiarity with the deceased’s domestic arrangements led many observing the murder case to think that Ms Wong could be helping the Tams and the Chois to conceal something—what that could be has been mostly speculative.

In the final paragraph of the Sing Tao Daily article, the attention was shifted to Joey Wong. She was quoted saying, in response to the termination of the application of the registration of the charity she co-founded with Ms Choi, that the decision was made after she discussed the matter with her husband, Bernard Cheng, and Mr Tam. She spoke of her relationship with Abby Choi and the latter’s in-laws: “My husband and I met Chris and his wife in 2018, and later became 形影不离 (xingying buli) or inseparable-as-form-and-shadow friends,” she said. “When the unfortunate case happened, everyone was heartbroken beyond words. Before Abby met with that tragedy, we did not know Abby and Chris’s parents. After that, to prevent Chris and his family from being harassed, we stood up to assist them in facing the media.” Even if Joey Wong had initially rose to the task as the mysterious Madam Bao. A false front, but a true friend to the end.