The same year Pearl Harbor was attacked, Japanese bombers also targeted Chongqing, China — where Anthony Chang was born.

“Half the city was on fire,” Chang said. “I don’t know how I survived.”

World War II and the Chinese Civil War prompted Chang and his family to move twice more until they settled in Taiwan, where Chang completed most of his education before leaving for the United States in 1960. Over the years, his work as an accountant and a property broker took him to more than 90 countries.

Chang chose business as a profession because he thought it was the responsible thing to do. But he always had an interest in journalism and, after he found that he was ill-suited for retirement, he finally pursued it.

Hawaii Chinese Daily Anthony Chang
Anthony Chang’s pride for his two daughters and his grandchildren is strong. A family man through and through, one of Anthony’s grandsons, Reed Sims, can be seen pictured on the mug Anthony uses for tea. Alicia Lou/Civil Beat/2022

“Do you know what the definition of ‘retirement’ is?” Chang asked. “Let me help you — OK — from Monday to Friday you do nothing. And on Saturday and Sunday, you take a day off … I can’t take this life.”

He said the “secret recipe” to staying healthy and lucid is to keep working.

In 2008, Chang and his wife had moved to Oahu to enjoy retirement, but just four years later Chang started a TV station. When he turned 74, he started a newspaper. Eight years and a global pandemic later, he’s still publishing.

Although he and his wife now live on the Big Island, he continues to pay rent for an office and an apartment in Honolulu and commutes back and forth to tend to his newspaper, Hawaii Chinese Daily, which is published in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese editions.

Hawaii Chinese Daily Anthony Chang
Anthony Chang was the corporate controller and vice president of the John Coleman Co., who at the time owned the Ritz-Carlton in New York and several other hotels. Courtesy: Anthony Chang

Chang’s paper, a combination of local, national and global news, was once delivered every week all over Chinatown — as well as to several hotels, restaurants and condominiums in Honolulu — free of charge.

One reader, Elizabeth Wichmann-Walczak, retired director of the Asian Theater Program at the University of Hawaii Manoa, received the paper at school. She said Chang’s paper was a valuable resource for first-generation immigrants, people temporarily staying in Hawaii and for people like her, students of the Chinese language.

Until the pandemic, Hawaii Chinese Daily was being printed in Los Angeles and shipped by air to Hawaii, which still cost less than printing the paper locally.

Though Chang was reluctant to reveal exact dollar amounts, it cost him most of his retirement savings, he said. It’s a number even his wife hasn’t been privy to.

“She believes it’s too expensive a hobby, but I believe this is my contribution for society, for Chinese and for Hawaii. This is my duty,” Chang said. “This is my goal for my life. It’s something more than money.”

In 2020, the pandemic forced Chang to convert his print product to a digital format. Though he hopes to have his paper both online and in print again, the decision probably saved his business from bankruptcy, he admits.

“It’s not that I’m old-fashioned. Print and online — we’re talking about two different animals,” Chang said.

The two types of readers are like patrons of fast food versus an expensive French restaurant — both hungry, but for different kinds of food. “And my paper is a French restaurant,” he said.

Hawaii Chinese Daily Newspapers
Anthony Chang started Hawaii Chinese Daily seven years into his retirement. Alicia Lou/Civil Beat/2022

Wesley Fong, a retired U.S. Army colonel and chair of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission and a UH law and ethics professor, has known Chang for over a decade. He said Chang truly is a person who wants to give back.

Chang recently had Fong’s book, “Memoirs of a Chinese American Officer,” translated from English into Chinese.

“Tony is giving a voice to the Chinese community,” Fong said. “Normally when you retire you stay retired, but he really has a passion to do something good.”

Other than drawing on his retirement savings, Chang also relies on ads to support production of the paper. Chang also purchased the rights for WhereTraveler, a travel magazine and several guidebooks for Kauai, Maui, Oahu and the Big Island, common staples in hotel lobbies and suites.

When the pandemic hit, Chang canceled $260,000 worth of contracts for the travel magazines and books, knowing that they would be pointless during the downturn.

Chang initially thought the restrictions in Hawaii would last a month — maybe three at most. He kept up the rent on Oahu while he was stuck at home on the Big Island, working on an autobiography he hopes to leave for his grandsons. By the time he came back to Oahu after restrictions were lifted, all four tires on his car were flat.

Chang’s country of birth has been infamous for its censorship of journalists and media organizations, and he said that he knows he wouldn’t be able to print Hawaii Chinese Daily in China.

Hawaii Chinese Daily Anthony Chang
Prior to the pandemic, Anthony Chang had a staff of 10. Now, he’s down to about three. Alicia Lou/Civil Beat/2022

Chang, who writes many of the articles published in his newspaper, regularly criticized former President Donald Trump, and said he has never received any backlash.

“I read a lot of books about China, and the culture over 5,000 years, my god, is a treasure,” Chang said. “I’m proud to be Chinese … but also to be Chinese-American.”

A self-proclaimed Taoist, Chang said everything that is bad is also good, and vice versa.

He said he thinks the rest of the world should go easy on judging China’s methods for handling the coronavirus.

“Just like if you have a mosquito in your house, you have two ways — you either wait and let it bite you, or you seal all your windows and doors and try to find it,” Chang said.

In April, Chang will turn 82. He said he is seriously considering cutting down to 10-hour work days, six days a week.

Something to consider...

Civil Beat is a small, independent newsroom that provides free content with no paywall. That means readership growth alone can’t sustain our journalism.

The truth is that less than 2% of our monthly readers are financial supporters. To remain a viable business model for local news, we need a higher percentage of readers-turned-donors.

Will you consider making a tax-deductible gift today?

About the Author