[Congressional Record: February 28, 2002 (Extensions)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
TRIBUTE TO DAN TANG
HON. MARK UDALL
in the house of representatives
Wednesday, February 27, 2002
Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor a
constituent of mine, Mr. Dan Tang, who was recently featured in the
Rocky Mountain News for his success as an entrepreneur in the
restaurant business. Mr. Tang's story reminds us that perhaps no one
enjoys the fruits of the opportunity that America has to offer as much
as those who have never had the luxury of taking it for granted.
Over twenty years ago, having heard countless stories of how much our
great country has to offer, Mr. Tang bravely escaped communist China
with the hope of one day becoming an American citizen. He spent nearly
a year in extremely harsh conditions at a refugee camp in Canton
awaiting permission to come here. Thankfully, Mr. Tang had relatives in
Los Angeles who were able to give him a floor to sleep on, and a roof
over his head when he finally received permission to enter the United
As an immigrant who spoke no English, he had a life-sustaining dream
to overcome the obstacles he faced and move to Colorado. In Colorado he
was able to get a job as a dishwasher in an American-owned Chinese
restaurant. He worked tirelessly, learned English, and moved up the
ladder of the restaurant business, eventually becoming a chef.
Recognizing Mr. Tang's talent, a Colorado restaurant owner took him
under his wing and taught him the financial side of the business. This
knowledge and experience enabled Mr. Tang to purchase his first
restaurant, ``Heaven Dragon.'' The restaurant is one of the most
popular and successful restaurants in my district and has enabled Mr.
Tang to buy a second restaurant nearby, ``Pearl Wok''. He is a leader
in the Chinese-American community of Colorado, a successful
businessman, a friend to the Governor of Colorado, and an example of
how the so-called ``American dream'' is still a reality.
Mr. Speaker, at a time in our country's history when many are
skeptical of the enormous contribution that immigrants and their
families make in contributing to the success of America and
strengthening our communities, I am encouraged by the example of Dan
Mr. Speaker, I commend Dan Tang's story to this House and to my
colleagues for the inspiration it evokes, and for a reminder of what it
is to be an American.
[From the Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 20, 2002]
Feeding the American Dream
(By Marty Meitus)
Fourteen people. One rusty old boat, A harrowing glide down
the river to Macau, then a Portuguese colony more than 100
miles from the farm near Canton, with two toddlers to keep
If the boat went toward the shore, Dan Tang says, they
would cover the children with a blanket to make it look as if
they were transporting something. If the boat had sprung a
leak and sunk, or if the children had cried out at the wrong
moment, Tang and company would have risked prison and a steep
``It was pretty scary,'' he says in his heavily accented
Tang, owner of the Heaven Dragon restaurant, a hidden
treasure tucked away in a strip mall in Thornton, has been
asked to tell the tale of his escape from communist China
over and over since he arrived in this country 20 years ago.
The affable 40-year-old is given to easy laughter, taking
pleasure and pride in his pretty restaurant.
In honor of the Chinese, New Year, which began Feb. 12 and
lasts 15 days, we talked to Tang about his journey toward the
Tang's father was a rice and yam farmer in Canton; his
mother was a housewife. He and his five brothers slept in the
same bed in their two-bedroom wood-and-dirt house. Needed in
the fields, he attended school only to fifth grade. The
family never rose above the poverty level, restricted by a
government that confiscated most of their earnings and
limited their activities.
In 1980, hearing that fortunes could be made here, Tang
decided to leave China for the United States. ``They (his
parents) let me try it to escape to freedom,'' he says. ``The
government limited what you could do. You had to escape,
because there were no travel visas; you had to get permission
to go from city to city.''
In Macau, he stayed in a refugee camp for 11 months, under
rough conditions, while he waited for his visa to come
through. His goal was to reach his aunt, his father's sister,
who lived in Los Angeles.
Eventually, he was granted permission to leave. He lost
sight of the other 13 people on the boat, although he knows
that a couple of them immigrated to Canada. ``We were
lucky,'' he says. ``I know people who tried to get out four
or five times.''
In Los Angeles, he slept in his aunt's dining room, hoping
to break into the restaurant business, one of the few fields
open to an immigrant who spoke no English. Struggling to
survive, he finally moved to Colorado, where he had friends,
and went to work for Americans who owned a Chinese restaurant
His experience with cooking was limited. ``The first time I
saw a grocery store in the U.S., I'm in paradise,'' he says.
He worked his way up from dishwasher to prep cook to deep-
fry cook to chef, moving around the metro area to 10
restaurants in all. Then an American businessman took him
under his wing and taught him the restaurant business,
enabling Tang to buy Heaven Dragon in 1985.
Tang has brought all his family except two brothers to
America, and they should be allowed to come in the next
couple of years. The family includes his wife, Ying Li, the
woman chosen to be his bride by his parents in an arranged
marriage. When he brought her over as an adult for their
wedding, he hadn't seen her since she was 9. ``When she got
off the plane,'' he says. ``I didn't recognize her, except a
Choosing his own wife would have been out of the question.
``We still have old culture, so I wouldn't even think of not
doing it,'' he says. But all's well that ends well. He and
Yung Li have been married for 11 years and have three
children: Victor, 10, Tracey 8, and Audrey, 7.
Tang has been successful enough to open a second
restaurant, the Pearl Wok, at West 120th Avenue and Sheridan
Boulevard. Although he'd like to have more free time to
devote to learning English and he regrets never being able to
return to school, the restaurant life has been its own
education. ``If you work hard,'' he says, ``you get
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